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Full text of "Processed World"

TheOrea 



Digitized by the Internet Archive 
in 2010 



http://www.archive.org/details/processedworld2001proc 



Menu 

PPiDCESSED kUDRLD E . DDl 

Special 20th Anniversary Edition / Summer 2001 
ISSN 0735-9381 




Talking Heads 

introduction 

Farce or Figleaf: The Promise of Leisure 
in the Computer Age 

analysis by R. Dennis Hayes 

The Filing Cabinet is on Fire 

tale of toil by Clayton Peacock 

Intellectual Property: The Attack on 
Public Access to Culture 

analysis by Howard Besser 

Distanced Education: Fast Times 

at Ronald McDonald U 

analysis by Jesse Drew 

The Disappeared of Silicon Valley .... 

tale of toil by Paulina Borsook 

Green Days in the Concrete Jungle . . . 

tale of toil by Ted White 



..5 
.15 

.18 

.28 
.34 
.38 



Tremble 40 

poetry by James Brook 

My Life in the Search Engine 42 

tale of toil by Netizen X 

Bus 45 

fiction by Marina Lazzara 

Space Wars 49 

analysis by Tom Wetzel 

Poetry 55 

klipschutz 

I Live in the Past: The Rent is Cheaper! ... .58 

memoir by Zoe Noe 

Hot Under the Collar 60 

Notes from a Help Desk, York Univ. Strike, SilVal Debug 

The Great San Francisco 

Bicycle Protest of 1 896 64 

history by Hank Chapot 

Poetry 69 

Raven, Jim Fisher, Marjorie Sturm 

The Wiggle Mural 70 

interview by Chris Carlsson 

The Billboard Liberators 78 

article by Jack Napier 

Notes on an Outstanding 

Day at image 81 

tale of toil by Texas Frank 

Book Reviews 85 

by Chris Carlsson and Primitivo Morales 

Already a Winner! 95 

fiction by Thomas Daulton 

Marks: A Memery 1 00 

poetry by Adam Cornford 

Radical Politics: Assuming We Refuse, 

Let's Refuse to Assume 1 02 

article by Chris Carlsson 

Front Cover Back Cover 

Mona Caron Hugh D'Andrade 



CONTRIBUTORS: Primitivo Morales, Clayton Peacock. Thomas Daulton. Jesse Drew. Chris Carlsson, Howard Besser. Hugh D'Andrade, Mona Caron, Marina Lazzara. Minna 
Eloranta. James Brook. Zoe Noe, R. Dennis Hayes. Jim Fisher, David Green, Jack Napier, Texas Frank, Adam Cornford, JRS, Hank Chapot, Tom Wetzel, Don Paul, Al Lu|an. SF 
Print Collertive. klipschutz, Ted White, Netizen X, Petra Louze, Tristan Savatier, Doug Minkler. Med-o. R.L. Tripp, D.S. Black, Dimitri Loukakos. Rebecca Pearson. Paul 
vanderCarr. Jeff Schantz. Mike Mosher. Marjorie Sturm, Raven. Wild Billy, Michelle Cheikin, Joni Lynn and apologies to anyone we inadvertantly left out. 

Labor Donated by members of Media Workers Union Local 1 00 (and friends) in San Francisco. Processed World is a project of counterPULSE, a California 

non-profit corporation (see back page). Our mailing address for correspondence and orders is Processed World, 
,^dS^^^ 4 1 Sutter Street, # 1 829, San Francisco, CA 94 1 04. Future issues may erupt as circumstances permit and/or encourage. 
":5B=i»!^^ processedworld @yahoo.com / (4 1 5) 626-2060 

Check our website for updates at http://vvww.processedworld.com 



Talking Heads 



We're back! It's been 20 years since the first 
issue of Processed World was sold on the streets 
of downtown San Francisco. We pubHshed 32 
issues from 1981-1 994, a body of work still in circulation 
as tens of thousands of magazines and increasingly avail- 
able on our website. The demise of the collective after 
issue 32 prevented the publication of issue 33 1/3 
which is on the website as of late-2000. 

The issues pioneered in Processed World at the dawn of 
the so-called Information Age are more pressing today 
than they were when we started. Our society remains 
largely mute about the experience of work — its mean- 
ing, its purpose, who decides what should get done, by 
whom, and how. The glorification of the New 
Economy, reinforced by the astounding specu- 
lative bubble that has only recently burst, 
makes a handy target. But it only scratches 
the surface. 

It has been a mighty effort to find the 
time to produce this special issue of Processed 
World. In fact, since the last issue came out in 
1994, we've all been terribly busy! Work, family, 
writing projects, street theater, political organiz- 
ing, a sprawling digital social history of San Fran- 
cisco, housing crises, mid-life crises, psychothera- 
py, relationships. . . some of our activities are spe- 
cific to us, but the larger truth is one we share 
wath everyone: we are working ourselves to death. 
Most people work more than 40 hours a week, 
remarkably often without any extra pay Even if we 
have managed to maintain a life with a previously 
'normal' 40-hour week, or — heaven forbid — a 
part-time job (!), we tend to be busy with unpaid 
creative projects, raising families, fixing up over- 
priced homes, engaging in political campaigns, 
exploring the meaning of our lives, and so on. It 
is common to have a paid job, an unpaid creative 
career in writing, photography, dance or music, t, 
on top of a commitment to a family, mate or sig 
nificant other. 

Our social lives are as tightly scheduled as 
our work lives. A chance to see an old friend 
and catch up over lunch or dinner can easily 
take a half dozen communications by email, 
voice mail or phone tag attempting to juggle 
schedules. Few of us can drop in on anyone, 
or easily accommodate anyone dropping in 
on us. Fewer still have time to stop and 
remember that we didn't always live this way. 




"Everything from novel writing to philosophizing to 
the experience of laboring or making a home, has to face 
the challenge of accelerating turnover time and the rapid 
write-off of traditional and historically acquired values. 
The temporary contract in everything then becomes the 
hallmark of postmodern living." 

— David Harvey, The Condition of Post- Modernity 

The radical reconfiguration of everyday life over 
the past generation is what we call "The Great 
Speedup."There are so many aspects to this phe- 
nomenon that it is difficult to quickly sum- 
marize the changes or to offer a simple or 
clear explanation of its causes. The great 
speedup encompasses much more than the 
greater number of hours we work, both as 
paid wage-workers and as free humans grasp- 
ing for meaning and fulfillment. The dramat- 
ic intensification of work, ostensibly 
because computers have made us so much 
more productive, is one example. The 
expansion of buying and selling into more 
hours of the day (the 24 hour supermarket 
being a visible example) as well as into more 
areas of human life (therapy, prepared foods, 
childcare, housecleaners, etc.) are others. Further, 
the expansion of the world market, dramatized by 
the pubhc protests at international trade meetings 
(Seattle — WTO; Washington DC and Prague — 
IMF and World Bank; Quebec — Free Trade Area of 
the Americas, FTAA), is reaching every last corner 
of the globe, from the exploding cities of China 
and India to the remotest regions of the Amazon 
and the tropical forests of Indonesia and Malaysia. 
The world market is several centuries old, but 
only in the past quarter century have communi- 
cations technologies combined wath container- 
ization and falling trade barriers to make the 
global factory a reahty. 

The intensity and speed of these global 
changes have disrupted societies everywhere. In 
the Third World, traditional agricultural soci- 
eties are enduring the enclosures and forced 
proletarianization that characterized the earUest 
stages of the industrial revolution in Europe and 
North America. Meanwhile, in Europe, North 
America and all earlier industriahzed areas, 
working class communities wdth various forms of 
self-defense and control — from trade unions to 
government regulations — have been systematical- 

PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDl 



ly uprooted and broken down. Classical Marxism would call 
this the decomposition of the working class. During the 
1990s, the consolidation of media ownership reinforced a 
self-congratulatory ideological offensive that brazenly 
declared the end of history. Culturally (esp. in the United 
States) all vestiges of class awareness were buried under a 
cacophony of triumphalist capitalism. Everyone was either 
middle class, insanely rich or living in such poverty that it 
could only be understood as the moral failure of those who let 
themselves fall so low in a society so rife with opportunity. 
That real wages have fallen since 1 973 and many more people 
are much poorer today than they were a generation ago is con- 
veniently ignored. Our abiUty to understand our condition as 
a shared predicament, a class-wide experience rather than an 
individual and isolated phenomenon, is at an all-time low. 
"Capital flight, deindustrialization of some regions, 
and the industrialization of others, the destruction of 
traditional working class communities 
as power bases in class struggle, 
become leitmotifs of spatial transfor- 
mation under more flexible conditions 
of accumulation." 

— David Harvey, 
The Condition of Post-Modernity 



In hindsight we can see that the real 
turning point came in the early 1970s. 
The social movements lumped under 
the misleading rubric of "the sixties" had 
climaxed. New technologies in commu- 
nications and transportation combined 
with the re-emergence of world market 
competition to begin the decades-long 
process of radically expanding globaliza- 
tion. Living standards for working peo- 
ple reached their peak around 1973 and 
have fallen ever since on an aggregate 
scale. (In the U.S. the minimum wage 
has fallen by 40% in real spending power 
since that time). Old style industrial 
production underwent rapid restructur- 
ing, accelerating and expanding all the 
way to the present. The demise of old industrial centers and 
the accompanying disintegration of working class communi- 
ties throughout the U.S. and Europe were essential compo- 
nents of a powerful attack by capital that ultimately broke 
dowTi the "deal" in place since WWII. Pohtical economists 
have labeled this the move from Fordism-Keynesianism to a 
regime of "flexible accumulation," in which capital has decen- 
tralized production around the globe while increasing con- 
centration of wealth and power. 

The rise of temporariness and precarious work 
arrangements (first addressed in PW #2, summer 1981, 
"The Rise of the Six -Month Worker") has forced us to inter- 




nalize the values of capitalist business and apply them to the 
one resource we "control": our labor power. Thus we have 
to be flexible, multi-skilled multi-taskers, able to continu- 
ally master new skills and technologies. R. Dennis Hayes, a 
prolific contributor to Processed World from issue 10-23 (and 
author of Behind the Silicon Curtain:The Seductions ofWork in a 
Lonely Era, South End Press 1989), returns with this issue's 
lead article "Farce or Figleaf? The Promise of Leisure in the 
ComputerAge." Hayes takes on the glowing claims and real 
catastrophe imposed on daily life in the U.S. by the Great 
Speedup. In the process he reveals that the New Economy 
has no clothes. 

Jesse Drew (issue 14) returns with a critique of dis- 
tance education in "Fast Times at Ronald McDonald U." He 
details how the introduction of information technology 
becomes a mediated way to produce education for sale. It is 
woefully inadequate as a replacement for the live teacher- 
student-classroom experience, and a 
glaring example of the overall corpora- 
tization of university life. 

Howard Besser examines the mis- 
use of copyright law to shed light on the 
regrettably obscure battle over intellec- 
tual property rights in cyberspace. His 
research shows that the current busi- 
ness-driven agenda to protect intellec- 
tual property is a direct contravention 
of copyright's original intent. More- 
over, it represents an enclosure of the 
public commons that so many have 
expected of the Internet. 

In "Space Wars, "Tom Wetzel {PW 1 2 
and others) starts fi-om San Francisco's 
Mission District to illuminate the vicious 
battle over the cost of space, and its role g 
in intensifying class di\asions in the city. ^ 
His story of the Dotcom Boom and Bust o 
and how it has permanently altered the ^ 
landscape of the city is a key part of the z 
extreme speedup imposed by the so- §, 
called New Economy. Zoe Noe offers a 
brief memoir of his early days in San Francisco in the long- 
ago early 1 980s — a time when you could land here without 
money or a job and find your way. 

San Francisco is home to Critical Mass, the monthly 
bike-in that has spread to some 100-odd cities worldwide. 
Few realize, however, that a century earlier San Franciscans 
took to their bicycles by the thousands to demand good 
roads and asphalt! The 1896 Good Roads/Bicycle Move- 
ment gets a look from Hank Chapot in "The Great San 
Francisco Bicycle Protest of 1896." (It is curiously ironic 
that the bicycling movement at the end of the 1 9th century 
opened the way for the car culture that contemporary bicy- 
clists are critiquing at the end of the 20th century.) 



»Dt!^c*p>^ 



PRDCE55ED kUDRLD E-DDI 




The bicyclists' criti- 
cal but hopeful sensibility 
finds its most inspiring 
expression in the Duboce 
Bikeway Mural of San 
Francisco's middle hills, a 
two-story, 360 foot-long 
panorama depicting the 
path followed by most 
bicyclists on their way 
west from downtown. 
The path follows the bed 
of a vanished creek, one 
of many ecological con- 
nections brought out in 
this uniquely effective 
project of the SF Bicycle 
Coalition. Check out our 
interview with the artists 
in "The Wiggle Mural," 
and then check out the 
mural as it was meant to 
be seen: on two wheels! 

The Billboard Liber- 
ation Front returns to Processed World (their how-to manual 
graced the pages of PW #25) with a manifesto and history 
of their jarring interventions into the puWic space of bill- 
board advertising. Other public artists from the SF Print 
Collective and the CaUfornia Department of Corrections 
show up throughout the issue. 

In "Green Days in the Concrete Jungle," documentary 
filmmaker Ted White takes a break fi-om chronichng the bike 
movement to give us the true confessions of a gangsta Jlori- 
bunda, tending to the ferns, agave and lavender beds of home- 
owners too busy to enjoy their own gardens. 

Of course, it's not just homeowners who are too busy to 
appreciate their surroundings. Workers of all types aren't get- 
ting out much these days — and if they do it's never far fi-om 
a laptop and cell phone. Tales of Toil by Netizen X ("My Life 
in the Search Engine"), Clayton Peacock ("The Filing Cabinet 
is on Fire") and Texas Frank ("Notes on an Outstanding Day 
at Image") reveal the daily experiences of an overworked, 
email-driven generation who rarely question the economic 
system until their company tanks, their disk crashes, or they 
find themselves out on the street harassing pedestrians for 
cash and pushing shampoo. 

The good news is that catastrophes aren't always neces- 
sary to throw inequities of capital and labor into relief. 
Resistance still appears in the most unexpected places — 
including Canada's third largest university and the network 
help desk of General Electric. Read about it in Hot Under 
the Collar, where our correspondent recounts a sponta- 
neous act of solidarity among his colleagues, and concludes, 
"Revolution is about living differently, not as isolated indi- 



viduals, but in stiuogle." 

That message reappears in this issue's final essay, in 
which PWs usual suspect, Chris Carlsson, takes a critical 
look at 20 years of political activity, urging radicals to cre- 
ate living examples of the world for which they're fighting. 
Special kudos to Mona Caron for her wonderful cover, 
simultaneously lampooning the hero of economics text- 
books Joseph Schumpeter and the adoration so widely 
heaped on the deified New Economy. Klipschutz returns 
(PW 4 and on) with some wonderful poems, but also saved 
you, dear reader, fi-om a great deal of under-edited, over- 
inflated prose, thanks to his steady copy-editing hand. Adam 
Cornford, one of ProcessedWorld's founders is back, too, with 
a couple of remarkable poems. And James Brook appears 
for the first time with an incisive series of short poems 
largely composed on the streets of San Francisco during the 
recent New Economy tidal wave. Marina Lazzara and 
Thomas Daulton contribute our fictional pieces this time. 

This 20th anniversary issue of PW was produced by a 
persistent, shifting, shifty, shiftless collective who had a lot 
of fun doing another Processed World. And no one, save the 
printer, got paid. 

PPiDCESSED LllDRLD 

41 Sutter Street, #1829 / San Francisco, CA 94104 

(415)626-2060 

www.processedworld.com 

email: processedworld@yahoo.com 



PRDCESSEQ LiiDRLD E-DDl 



Farce or Figleaf? 



The Promise of Leisure in the Computer Age 



by R. Dennis Hayes 

It became apparent that industrialism was moving toward a 
degree of mechanization in which fewer and fewer men need be, 
or indeed could be, employed. And that the result of that devel- 
opment must, of physical neccessity, be a civilization in which 
all men would work less and enjoy more. ' 

Archibald MacLeish, February 1933 

Are jou working, as the computer ads say, "smarter 
and faster"? Is faster smarter? Is working longer 
hours better? Your answers, disavowed by econo- 
mists and government statisticians, provide clues to a 
striking paradox at the start of the 2 1 st century. 

In an era of undeniable technological advance, 
Americans work as hard as they did four generations ago. 
Harder, in fact, than anyone in the industrialized world 
according to the most recent International Labor 
Organization (ILO) survey: nearly 70% of Americans work 
more than 40 hours per week, compared to 50 % in Japan, 
16% in France, and 14% in Germany. 

Sociologists and public 
thinkers in the 1960s and 
70s foretold a coming era 
of leisure owing to com- 
puterized automation. It 
was to be the sequel to the 
labor-saving mechanization 
of the Industrial Age. 
Others predicted a dark 
side to workplace automa- 
tion: enforced joblessness. 
Neither scenario has 
played out. Instead, a world 
of digitally assisted work 
opened wide and swal- 
lowed us. Today we are liv- 
ing in a go-go realm of 
overwork that extends 
instantly and intimately 
into personal life. "Where 
the office begins is up to 
you," a Sprint PCS wireless 
web service ad beckons. "I 
don't take sick days," vows 
a worker in another 

PFDCESSED LUDRLD E-ODl 




(Microsoft). "[I]n a world that rims on Internet time, every 
minute not spent working is 60 seconds wasted," reports a 
'New York Times journaUst. The shared premise of these and 
countless similar messages? Work is available anytime, anywhere: 
are you? 

Instead of confronting the promise and problems of 
automation, we are locked in an awkward embrace with 
computerization, stuck with more work, not more free 
time. To appreciate the paradox — to see that there even is a 
paradox — we must return to the Industrial Age of the cen- 
tury just passed. 



During the Great Depression, American journalist, 
playwright and poet Archibald MacLeish had the audacity to 
announce "the first human hope industrialism has offered." 
MacLeish wrote these words in February, 1933 when work- 
places were shuttered, the banking system lay in ruin, and 
without a safety net, millions endured a deepening eco- 
nomic crisis. 

MacLeish found hope 
in a trend that emerged in 
the "Roaring 20s," which, 
like the 1990s, witnessed a 
glamorous economic boom. 
As part of that boom, 
sweeping changes had trains- 
formed the industrial work- 
place and that is what 
caught MacLeish's atten- 
tion. Finally, over two 
decades of investment in the 
era's marvels — the electric 
motor, the hght bulb, petro- 
chemicals, the internal 
combustion machine, and 
the telephone — were pay- 
ing off. In short, productivi- 
ty — output per hour 
worked — grew phenome- 
nally in the 1920s. 

Today, after another 
technological great leap 
brward and after the 
longest economic boom in 
recorded U.S. history. 




/ credulous observers cite 
/ hopeful government fig- 
ures comparable to those 
that MacLeish found in 
the 1920s. Statistics erro- 
neously suggest that white 
collar workers, including 
those who work most close- 
ly with information technolo- 
gy, work an average of only 3 3 
hours per week. They suggest 
that since 1995, after a lapse of 
two decades, workplace pro- 
ductivity is again soaring, that 
investment in information tech- 
nology has finally paid off and the 
future is bright. "The prospects for 
sustaining strong advances in pro- 
ductivity in the years ahead remain 
favorable," Alan Greenspan told a 
Congressional Committee in February 
2001. So then, are we working less, 
enjoying more free time, with even 
more leisure in the offing? 

Just the opposite seems to have 
occurred. In fact, the long boom of the 
1990s looks hke something that was 
lowered on worker and workplace. 
Americans are working longer hours, 
more intensely, less efficiently, and at 
more jobs per household than at any 
other time since the 1920s and per- 
haps earlier. 

It is the harried world of the 
white-collar worker — the just arriv- 
ing majority in our service-oriented 
economy and supposedly the benefi- 
ciary of "re-engineering" in the 
1 980s and "office automation" in the 
1 990s — that American economists 
and statisticians have misunder- 
stood. 

* * * 

During the last 25 years, 
Americans quietly but furiously 
reversed a remarkable trend. 

That trend, dating from the end 

of World War II through the Vietnam 

War, saw a steady reduction in work 

hours. For most, work remained far 

from agreeable: hard, boring, or 

dangerous. Yet in the late 1940s, it 

became possible to earn a living 

wage working eight hours a day. 



five days a week. In an era dominated 
by single -breadwinner families, house- 
hold income rose steadily, too. 
MacLeish 's hope seemed to be materi- 
alizing. Several related phenomena 
accounted for this. 

Chief among them was productiv- 
ity, which soared during the 1 950s and 
60s, picking up where it left off in the 
1920s. More was being made fi-om 
less labor. Theoretically, this made 
possible a truce in class warfare: with 
productivity and output rising due to 
ongoing "mechanization," workers' 
incomes and corporate profits could 
rise together while prices remained 
low. It was a political economy that 
endorsed the social contract of the 
post- WWII era and lent credibility to 
Kermedy's "rising tide hfts all boats." 

Making good on the promise of 
less work and rising incomes required a 
robust labor movement. Crucially, per- 
haps, the unionized workplace and the 
New Deal had secured overtime pay for 
wage workers. "Time-and-a-half" for 
overtime dissuaded business fi-om re- 
extending the workday. It also served as 
an inducement to increase productivity 
through capital investment. White col- 
lar workers— exempt fi-om laws requir- 
ing overtime pay by virtue of their 
salaried status were still a minority. 
Their overtime remained "fi-ee." 

Then something happened that 
economists still cannot quite explain. 
By the end of the 1970s, the basis for 
MacLeish 's hope for industrialism was 
eroding and the remarkable trend had 
begun to unravel. Longer work hours 
and sagging productivity afflicted the 
1980s. By 1992, Juliet Schor noticed 
in The Overworked American that we 
were already working more than we 
had in 1950. "If present trends contin- 
ue," she reckoned, "by the end of the 
century Americans will be spending as 
much time at their jobs as they did 
back in the 1920s." 

In the 1990s, the trend not only 
continued, it gained momentum, g 
According to reputable, independent ^ 
surveys that poll workers directly, we ^ 
are now working more hours per full ^ 

PRDCESSED LUDRLD E-DDl 



time job — flirting with 50 hours per week as a national 
average — and at more jobs per household — two-to-three 
job households are now mainstream — than in the 1950- 
60s. 

The reversal is significant. It can be gauged by adding the 
hours that today's multi-job household spends working each 
week then comparing the total with hours worked by histor- 
ical American households. Take, for instance, a software pro- 
grammer who works 50 to 60 hours per week. Add a part- 
ner working part-time — 2 5 to 30 hours per week — temping 
at a law firm. This typical contemporary household works 
twice as many hours as households did in the 1950s, more 
still than households in the 1920s. In fact, we would have to 
reach back to 
the pre -Ford 
Industriahsm of 
the late 1 9th 
and early 20th 
centuries to find 
household 
workweeks of 
comparable 
hours. 

The 
decline of 
vinion represen- 
tation explains 
some of the 
reversal. Still, 
organized 
labor's fortunes 
reflect an ebb 
and flow that is 
now decades 
old. the ebb of 
unions' tradi- 
tional base — 
blue-collar jobs 
— and the 
flow of the 
new, volatile 
service sector 
jobs that 
Industrial Age 
unions have 
been unable or 
unwilling to 
organize. 

Clearly, the 
increase in work 
hours and jobs 
per household 
in the last quar- 
ter century has 



paralleled the ascendance of office work, investment in infor- 
mation technologies, and the salaried white-collar worker. 
The correlation may not be accidental. In fact, it is a clue to 
a related puzzle: How could our longer hours at work go 
unnoticed by economists and statisticians? 

Quite simply, the Commerce Department's surveying 
techniques still reflect the bias of our industrial past when a 
blue-collar majority was paid by the hour. Government sur- 
veys undercount the number of hours worked by salaried 
workers because corporate accountants don't track, or 
report to the government, or compensate, the time actual- 
ly worked by their salaried workers after hours, on week- 
ends, while commuting, or on vacation. This is to say noth- 



•^ 1 new me£?oge 



Daddy, 



Today I stole Billy's tricycle and sold It for $5 on 

Weebay.com 

I hacked Jane's homework and sold It to Frankle 

for $2.13. 

I killed the bod guys on my nintendo & ordered 

new gomes with grandma's credit cord. 

Please come home before my bedtime. You hove 
to show me how to scan the police radio. 




PawnPowe'red handhelds open up new PAWN"' opp 
across the generations. Our system is SQ easy, your kids will 
be major revenue generators before you know It. 
Simply amazing. ' • 



Simply PAWN- 
pawn.com 



PFiDCESSED LUDRLD E-QDl 



ing of work performed at home, where, according to a sur- 
vey in 2000, at least 25% of us plug back into work. As one 
observer recently noted, "hundreds of millions of hours of 
work are going unrecorded by the government."^ 

The government's rationale for using dated methodol- 
ogy is a mystery. Blue-collar laborers are a minority (about 
15%) of the workforce while white collar workers 
(approaching 50% of the workforce) will soon constitute a 
majority.' The mystery functions as both farce and figleaf: 
the 3 3 -hour workweek reported for white collar workers, 
a figure that lumps full and part time employees, is ill-reck- 
oned and misleading. And the rosy productivity increases 
since late 1995 are inflated. 

The government and most U.S. economists ignore sur- 
veys that more reliably and plausibly track the average 
workweek and, consequently, productivity. The ILO survey 
confirmed that Americans are working longer — much 
longer — than they did before the dawn of the information 
economy — a full 9 weeks more than the average European 
worker. And recent years have seen Americans extend their 
unenviable lead, a trend that parallels rising workplace 
investment in Silicon Valley technology. 

U.S. workers are also less productive 
than their highly unionized, better compen- 
sated, and less harried counterparts in 
Europe. The ILO report found productivity 
significantly higher and increasing more rap- 
idly — by over 50% in Germany and France 
than in the U.S. 

As it is, the biased U.S. productivity fig- 
ures suggest that information technology has not only failed 
to reduce time at work, but also has failed to help us work 
more efficiently. Nearly 80 percent of all business invest- 
ment in computer technology occurs in three industries: 
business services; finance, insurance, and real estate; and 
wholesale and retail trade. Official productivity growth has 
lagged in all these industries for years — in commercial 
banking, which is forever expanding and updating its com- 
puter capabilities, productivity growth was negative 
between 1995 and 1998. 

Deepening the correlation between inefficiency and 
computer use is the fact that "knowledge workers," those 
working most closely with computers, are among those 
working the most hours of any group in the workforce. 

Do we, as some have suggested, find the faster pace of 
work thrilling?'* Are the long hours working closely with 
technology really so rewarding?^ Has the workplace 
become a haven for those whose lives are uprooted by 
divorce and chaos at home?'' Perhaps. But these explana- 
tions presume that overwork — whether overtime or more 
jobs per household — is voluntary. 

Last year a Business M^ee/;-Harris Poll confirmed that 
most people feel they haven't benefitted from their 
increased workloads or the surging economy of the 1990s. 



THE GOOD FIGHT 

Ayn Rand is harder 
to kill than Rasputin. 
(Nixon was a crib death 
next to her, a quitter.) 

by klipschutz 



Two-thirds of the respondents said the boom had not raised 
the level of their earnings or increased their job security.' 
For many, prosperity was illusory or literally borrowed: 
during the 1990s, household-related debt ballooned. Credit 
card debt alone surpassed $7,000 per household. And for 
the first time since the Great Depression, the household 
savings rate is negative. 

Indeed, the payoff for our increasing toil has been so 
meager that it now takes two or more jobs per household to 
acquire necessities and luxuries that one job purchased 30 
years ago. Today, in nearly four out of five couples — com- 
pared with one out of five in 1950 — both partners work, 
with women working nearly as many hours for pay as men. 
Some work longer and harder because they want to. But for 
most, overwork is not elective, it is part of a new social con- 
tract. Renewing that contract in perpetuity is the household 
inflation that, like salaried overwork, eludes official sur- 
veys. Squeezed for time as well as income, multi-job house- 
holds pay a monthly premium for childcare, a second or 
third car, dining out (or getting take-out) more often, and 
more. 

In gross and subtle ways, statisticians and 
economists who should — and perhaps do — 
know otherwise obscure this unfolding social 
history as well as its connection to our era's 
version of "mechanization ."Their confusion is 
ours: inaccurate tidings of higher productivity 
and shorter hours at the workplace sustain 
our naivete about technological efficiency. 
Our confusion about work and time is far 
from academic. It invites us to deny the personal impacts of 
overwork. 

* * * 

What happens when pressure to work longer and hard- 
er constrains non-work life? When lunch breaks are short- 
er, less convivial, or simply an excuse to slip in more work? 
When fast food isn't deemed fast enough, so we "drive 
thru," take out, and dine alone, en route, as tens of millions 
of Americans now do everyday? 

What becomes of imagination when we entertain, 
read, vacation, play, sleep (and, in consequence, dream) 
less? What happens to personal life when, as time-manag- 
ment authors now advise, we schedule weekend "appoint- 
ments" to garden, to have brunch or "romance," or to meet 
with family to review the "domestic agenda"? 

What happens to work itself when, to get more done, 
we go at several tasks simultaneously? 

Are we simply too busy to entertain such queries? If the 
answer is yes, we may be ignoring the most far-reaching 
change in American culture in over 1 00 years. 

We once placed a high value on time away from work. 
The American-led movement for the eight-hour day, begun 
in the 1 9th Century and continuing through the 20th, is a 
leading candidate for the world's most sustained and violent 



8 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDI 



POETRY DEMANDS 

THE INTRODUCTION OF PROGRESSIVE UNEMPLOYMENT 
THROUGH COMPREHENSIVE MECHANIZATION OF EVERY FIELD OF ACTIVITY 

ONLY BY 

UNEMPLOYMENT 

DOES IT BECOME POSSIBLE FOR THE INDIVIDUAL TO ACHIEVE CERTAINTY 

AS TO THE TRUTH OF LIFE 
& FINALLY BECOME ACCUSTOMED TO EXPERIENCE; 

FURTHER, 

THE IMMEDIATE ABOLITION OF PROPERTY 

& THE COMMUNAL FEEDING OF ALL, 

THE ERECTION OF CITIES OF LIGHT WILDNESS & 150,000 CIRCUSES 

FOR THE ENLIGHTENMENT OF THE PROLETARIAT 

First printed by the Central Committee of the Dadaist Revolutionary Council of Berlin in 1919 



class struggle. By mid-century, Americans were winning. At 
the start of the 21st century, we seem resigned to losing it. 

It is now likely that most Americans will continue to 
experience less and less free, spontaneous time; fewer and 
fewer interludes undistracted, un threatened or not over- 
shadowed by work. What we are losing is not only a margin 
of time but also a conception of time itself and with it, a 
certain composure as well as a shared memory of another 
way of living. 

Hastening and supplanting these losses is a preoccupy- 
ing and work-centered stress. 

Stress, so oft-cited we may by now be skeptical of it, is 
perhaps the most deeply and widely felt experience of our 
time, and not merely at the workplace where close to a 
majority now report it at debilitating rates. We occasional- 
ly hear or read that stress and related injuries cost American 
business billions of dollars in absenteeism and lost rev- 
enues. In less measureable ways, workplace stress touches 
nearly everyone daily. 

Work-centered stress entangles lives. It weighs on the 
American preconscious, prompting harried choices, 
whether it be how and where we work (in our kitchens, 
driving a car), what we eat (fast, unheal thful), or what we 
do with our shrinking free time (watch more television, 
sleep less). Stress keeps us awake at night, makes standing 
in growing lines less endurable, sours the moods we bring 
home, ignites in road rage. 

Stress may be the most honest response because it so 
immediately confirms our common predicament. We 



expected less work and more time. Indeed, contemporary 
medical practicioners now define the most affecting stress 
as the tension between the expectation of being more pro- 
ductive at work and the humbling reality of what technolo- 
gy has actually accomplished for us. What it has accom- 
plished is unprecedented. 

For the first time in history, work now commands an 
instant purchase on our time. An array of devices — cell 
phones, pagers, personal digital assistants, and laptops — 
provide an odd convenience. They give us the immediate, 
mobile communication we feel we need to negotiate life in 
the fast lane. They confer, for some, a sense of importance, 
of being "in demand."Yet it all somehow gets back to work: 
the same devices also serve as a Digital Lea.sh, allowing 
work to tug at personal life anytime, anywhere. A growing 
attachment to work forces many to schedule non-work 
time as if we were on-the-job time — obliging us to work, 
commute, and even relax within a time-managed frame- 
work that was once the domain of hard-charging corporate 
executives. 

A work-like regimen has invaded every refuge. The 
assault is visually confirmed by the "calendar tools" that mil- 
lions of us now run on computers or carry in personal 
devices. Unlike the "DayTimers" and assorted appointment 
books of even 10 years ago, today's digital calendars overlay 
hour-by-hour grids over weekends and holidays, inviting us 
to track free time from a workaday perspective. There is 
justification for this, especially in the multi-job household. 
All too often, our weekends, holidays, and vacations con- 



PFDCESSED kJDFLD E-DDI 



front us as time to complete postponed chores. Again our 
expectations — this time for play and recuperation — are 
diminished by a work-like outlook. The stress that 
MacLeish's contemporaries associated with paid work has 
come home. 

In the Industrial Age, laboratories in Detroit, Buffalo and 
Menlo Park, New Jersey gave American capitalism the labor- 
saving technologies to mechanize the blue-collar workplace. 
More recently, the technology firms in Palo Alto and 
Redmond were to deliver time-saving automation. It has 
been over two decades and we are still waiting, even as we 
witness an investment in "faster, smarter" technology that 
now exceeds $ 1 trillion per year. And our most frequently 
heard commentators repeat the catechism — that informa- 
tion technology, while disruptive to society, has generated 
prosperity for all while reducing work or ameliorating its 
conditions. 

Something quite different is occurring. Instead of 
automation, Silicon Valley has given us computerization, 
which has delivered more work, a cavalcade of unsteady jobs 
and uncertain tools, a mobile and instantly interruptible 
workplace, and less time to get anything done. Information 
technology Jirms have persuaded us to computerize the workplace 
instead of automating it. 

* * * 

Those who predicted the miracle of automation based 
on faster and faster computers misjudged the odd and 
frankly unexpected economics of technology innovation 
that evolved in Silicon Valley. 

Expecting automation, and fearful of rivals, corpora- 
tions opened their gates to information technology. They 
hoped to ride the trajectory of improving gadgetry to a new 
economy of higher profits and less compensated work time. 
Moore's Law and the rehabilitation of one of MacLeish's 
peers seemed to favor this course. 

In the 1930s, the Austrian economist Joseph 
Schumpeter emigrated to an influential post teaching eco- 
nomics at Harvard University. This secured a platform for 
his most famous concept, "creative destruction." 
Schumpeter celebrated entrepreneurial innovation as the 
engine of progress in capitalist economies. (Later he came 
to think that a technocracy of scientists and engineers 
would institutionalize innovation.) He believed that mar- 
kets would control the process of technological change in a 
way that would spread benefits widely, thereby compensat- 
ing for the dislocation and obsolescence left in its wake. 
Schumpeter 's star rose over Silicon Valley in the 1990s. 
Many insist that his views remain in sync with the disrup- 
tive innovation of our era, and they point to Moore's Law as 
proof. 

Moore's Law is the famous dictum (advanced by Intel 
co-founder Gordon Moore) that microchip capacity — and, 
by implication, computing power — doubles every 18 
months. This phenomenon was observed time and again 

10 



throughout the 1990s. Citing it, and spinning it into corol- 
laries, many economists and most business journalists 
assumed that faster, more efficient computer hardware was 
creating a Schumpeter turbo-effect: a non-stop boost in 
workplace efficiency that would yield higher profits, pro- 
ductivity, and prosperity. 

What Schumpeter could not have imagined, and what 
many businesses are just now learning, is this: Work con- 
fronts Silicon Valley as a vast, ongoing market for technolo- 
gy products; it is immensely more profitable for Silicon 
Valley to computerize, rather than to automate, our work. 

We took automation for granted. At industrial exposi- 
tions and in magazine features in the 1930s and 1940s, 
automation became a way to entertain the future. But its 
shape — and the idea of the computer as its agency — real- 
ly emerged in the 19S0s and 1960s. 

In a 1958 World Book Encyclopedia entry, John 
Diebold (a professional "management engineer") put the 
matter plainly. "Like mechanization," Diebold said, "the 
word automation ... is used to describe an attitude toward 
production." He continued: 

"Just as the machinery of mechanization freed human 

workers from much of the physical labor of production, 

the machinery of automation frees human workers from 

. . . mental labor. . ." 

Diebold suggested that computers were already reduc- 
ing the "mental labor" of "business offices." But the consen- 
sus then forming around computer-driven automation 
overlooked the social history that could make it possible. 

Fifty years ago, having won mandatory overtime pay 
and the right to strike, the labor movement could penalize 
employers who "mechanized" in ways that created more 
work or less pay. By contrast, at the dawn of the computer 
revolution, white-collar workers were unorganized. And a 
growing proportion of them — those on salaries — could 
extend "fi-ee" overtime to their employers. On the one 
hand, this meant that the economic incentive to automate 
office work was less compelling than it was to mechanize 
industrial work. On the other, the truly epic profits to be 
made selling computer technology assured that an irre- 
sistible force would hit every office. The result, computeri- 
zation, describes the now familiar pattern of nonstop, dis- 
ruptive investment in digital technology. It is a momentous 
force for change but, lacking an agenda to truly automate 
work, an insidious, cynical, and dehumanizing one. 

For Silicon Valley, however, computerization is its own 
reward. The more fi-equently products ship, the larger the 
revenue — from sales as well as from rising stock equity. The 
faster that innovative teclyiologies get pushed out the door, 
the higher the likelihood of achieving a corner on the mar- 
ket and a provisional monopoly profit, not to mention a 
major equity bounce. With the eager cooperation of Wall 
Street, Silicon Valley is driven to develop, devour, replace, 
and extend our digital infrastructure with reckless frequen- 

PPiDCESSED kUDPiLD E-DDl 




If you're an 

independent 

contractor then we 

don't need this, 

because you have 

one BUILT-IN! 



cy. The outcome is a quickly 
changing proprietary computing 
environment that is at odds with 
labor-saving automation. 

The logic of computerization 
is simple, effective, and self-rein- 
forcing. It invites and, eventually, 
compels workplaces to discard 
still useful technology in favor of 
new products. It does so almost as 
frequently as Silicon Valley devel- 
ops the next upgrade, which is 
now as often as every three 
months for widely used operating 
systems and applications. 

The computer industry and 
its trade press are occasionally 
candid about the overwork 
wrought by computerization. In a 
special issue devoted to "IT 
Complexity" in April, 2001, 
InformationWeek observed that: 

"More than a half-century has 
passed since the invention of the Eniac computer and 
two decades since the introduction of the PC. Yet today's 
IT systems — in the home, the office, and the factory 
alike — are fraught with complexity and difficulty. 
Companies spend millions of dollars for help-desk sup- 
port and troubleshooting technicians to untangle prob- 
lems as PCs freeze, servers crash, Web sites go down, 
and networks fail." 

The magazine reported that 90 % of the 250 IT and 
business managers it surveyed say "IT is more complex to 
manage than ever before." That same month, reacting to 
what a New York Times reporter called "an explosion in the 
variety of electronic devices," IBM's top hardware strategist 
Irving Wladawsky-Berger suggested that IT's complexity 
may soon be exponentially worse. "Our customers will have 
roughly 10 to 20 times more technology to manage over 
the next five years," he conceded. "This is a very tough 
problem" he argued, because computers today already must 
"survive much more unpredictable environments than in 
the past." 

As workplaces have become dependent on information 
technology, our digital tools and environments have 
become obsolete at a faster and faster pace. As businesses 
get wired and interconnected, upgrading an application 
here or integrating a new database there introduces incom- 
patibilities that roil (and prompt sudden upgrades to) other 
workplace computing environments. For Silicon Valley 
firms, it is a virtuous cycle. 

But for business in general, the manic pace of technol- 
ogy has foiled efforts to truly automate white-collar work. 
Workplace routines are chronically revised to reflect digital 
retrofitting, application software tweaking, database port- 




ing, or the uncertain and seemingly endless project of con- 
joining disparate computer environments in the aftermath 
of corporate mergers. For a growing number of us, day-to- 
day work is less standardized and steady than at any time in 
living memory. Of course, standardization is not always 
kind to work and worker. It is, however, a premise of 
automation and the possibility of reducing toil. 



Chief among the casualties of computerization is com- 
puter literacy. Far from the static category still promoted 
by policymakers and business leaders, computer literacy is 
a changling. It presumes continuous training to match the 
twists and turns of the latest upgrade, training that, for 
most, is rarely forthcoming and timely. It also demands 
time, effort and patience to appropriate the arcane, infor- 
mal knowledge that even seasoned programmers affirm is 
required to function in computer environments. Computer 
literacy has become a moving target with which few can 
keep pace. "You can never master your job because things 
change so often," as a 12 -year veteran of a large Silicon 
Valley firm put it. Instead, we are slouching en masse 
toward a perpetual state of occupational apprenticeship. 

Compounding the impact of upgrade cycles on the 
workplace is the astounding lack of reliability of computer 
software. The uncertainty of chronic, unpredictable change 
is trumped by the unreliability of tools that resemble pro- 
totypes more than products. 

Never before have so many tools with so many defects 
been sold to so many workplaces. Technology firms, in their 
rush to the market, overlook product quality, scale back 



PRDCESSED klJDRLD E-DOl 



II 



testing, and routinely ship mischievous software full of 
"known bugs." Once a source of pride for American capital- 
ism, workplace tools and technologies have reached historic 
lows in quality — and, of course, longevity: just as tools get 
patched and systems fixed, fi-esh upgrades are issued and a 
new round of wired alchemy engulfs the workplace. 

Taken together, rapid technological obsolescence and 
defective software are leading causes of overwork in the 
white collar workplace. Those of us who work with com- 
puters now have a second job: keeping them patched and 
upgraded and responding to their 
intricate cues, messages and 
glitches. "Each user, an adminis- 
trator," lamented the chief net- 
work officer of Sun 
Microsystems. 

Given the fragile, complex, 
cind changing state of informa- 
tion technology, it's not surpris- 
ing that corporations can neither 
understand nor control their 
workplace computer environ- 
ments. This has called into being 
a vast and lucrative computer 
support industry. In deals that 
would have shocked Henry Ford, 
blue-chip corporations now cede 
control of their most prized 
assets to strangers, signing multi- 
billion dollar contracts to out- 
source the managment of their 
computer systems. Among the 
beneficiaries is Electronic Data 
Systems, the computer support 
provider that made Ross Perot's 
fortune. EDS signed contracts 
worth $7.5 billion in the first 
three months of 2001, its ninth 
consecutive quarter of record 
signings. 

Scandalously, technology 
development firms have taken a 
cue from the computer support 
industry. Patching the bugs in the 
software they shipped last quar- 
ter — and perhaps introducing a 
few more in the bargain — tech- 
nology developers derive a grow- 
ing portion of their revenues from "customer support," 
which typically costs $90 to $ 1 50 per hour ad hoc. 

Wired businesses are over a barrel. Managers may 
threaten to switch operating system, application, or hard- 
ware vendors when new releases don't work as promised. 
Some do switch. But the threats more often give way to 



sighs. They know that similar problems will crop up in any 
new configuration. 

"They can't rip it out," was how one technology market- 
ing professional shrewdly described the leverage of the tech- 
nology firm over its computer-dependent clients. Writ large, 
that leverage, and the extent of unreliability that now charac- 
terizes computer environments, is reflected in a single sober- 
ing datum. The computer service industries are now the 
fastest growing branch in the entire economy, with projected 
job growth topping the charts at 1 ,872% between 1998 and 
2008. 



THE TIME FAMINE 

for R. Dennis Hayes 

Like the bellies of famine children, who 
sitting dully on fissured earth have 
nothing but time and almost no time at all, 
our days have distended, 

and like those children 

we hunger surrounded by overflowing 

prices as swiftly digital as rice, 

as memoryless and purposeful as water< 

but not like, because we've forgotten 
we're waiting for the glinting grain of life 
or the dark meal of sleep, that we 
agreed to wait, not like them because 

our waiting is busy as the flies round their eyes, 
crowded with quick articulate workings, 
with appetite's mouth-parts 
ticking, with a muffled buzz like instinct; 

so that hunger in us is not 
implosive emptiness but implanted 
growth, a larva lengthening segments 
under the swollen curve of our lives: 

coiled like a mainspring, eyeless 
but gleaming with intent, it eats 
precisely, muscle-mass, nerve, then on 
to the vitals one at a time; it cleans us 

to slumped sacs awash in 
screenlight, hung in feeder tubes; and having 
reserved the will's red fist for last, slips out 
of our open mouths and moves on. 



—Adam Cornford 



We have come a long way 
fi-om the relative workplace sta- 
bility that characterized the high 
productivity years of the 
Industrial Era. Standardization, 
reliabiUty and equilibrium were 
the rough premises of the 
Taylorist efficiency engineer who 
sought to impose a calculus of toil 
on blue-collar work. As comput- 
erization has laid siege to the 
office, work itself has been reor- 
ganized more often than at any 
other time in history. Today the 
very concept of "work routine" is 
an oxymoron. Nowhere is this 
more evident than in the Tower of 
Babel that is contemporary man- 
agement theory. 

In the 1980s and 1990s, 
management theory eagerly rati- 
fied computers as a means to 
reduce work and lower corpo- 
rate spending. Today there is a 
tone of concession and resigna- 
tion. Management consultants 
have given up on the optimistic 
"reengineering" of the early 
1990s. (They rarely use the 
other "r" word — "restructur- 
ing" — because it has become a 
euphemism for layoffs and bank- 
ruptcy.) In the new millenium, 
they instead have recourse to 
chaos theory, improvisational 
theater, and neo-Darwinian models to depict their subject: 
the anarchy of the computerized workplace. Far fi-om artic- 
ulating a way to subordinate technology to work and there- 
by promote automation, management consultants prescribe 
coping strategies for the afflicted. 

"[I]n the face of threat" from technological change, the 



12 



PPiDCESSED LUDFLD E.QDl 



authors of Surfing the Edge of Chaos warily counsel managers 
to accept "living on the edge of chaos," because "[tjhis con- 
dition evokes higher levels of mutation and experimenta- 
tion, and fresh new solutions are more likely to be 
found "(emphasis added) 

"E-business environments are full of surprises," a distin- 
guished Harvard Business Administration professor concedes 
in her new book, e- Volve! After interviewing over 300 movers 
and shakers, and conducting a 785-company global survey, 
her advice to workplace managers? "Instead of following a 
script, e-sawy companies run an improvisation theater. 
...[s]oon the performances of many troupes accumulate to 
take the organization in a new direction." 

The metaphors of instability and the temporizing "solu- 
tions" reflect a workplace undergoing relentless change with 
no discernible direction other than the certainty of absorbing 
an endless stream of computer products. "If things seem under 
control, you're just not going fast enough." quipped manage- 
ment guru Thomas Peters. Indeed it's hard to escape the con- 
clusion that the computerized workplace is, from the point of 
view of its underlying technology, unmanageable. 

A metaphor that gets us closer to how computerization 
affects work and worker is that of the machine itself. 
"Wherever the machine process extends, it sets the pace for 
the workmen, great and small," observed ThorsteinVeblen in 
1 904. Amid the chaos of an earlier machine age, and 
clearly spcciking of different kinds of machines, 
Veblen warned that: 

. . .Mechanically speaking, the machine is not his 
to do with as his fancy may suggest. His place is to 
take thought of the machine and its work in terms 

given him by the process that is going forward "* 

Today, Veblen would be among the first to 
agree that the most profound and wide -reaching 
"process that is going forward" is computerization. 
His suggestion that the machine influences the 
process as well as the "thought" of work bears 
comparing. 

Computers are simple work machines. They 
are designed to work on several tasks simultane- 
ously (multitasking) and to respond as quickly as 
possible — ideally, in "real time" — to interruptions 
that change the priority of assigned work, or 
introduce more work. This is as good a description 
as any of the approach to work that computeriza- 
tion has foisted on millions of white-collar work- 



to the latest digital status quo, no wonder we are behaving 
in computer-like ways. 

* * * 

At our jobs and in our personal lives, we are interrupt- 
ed and interruptible as at no other time in history. This con- 
dition derives from the computer-like assumption that we 
are available to respond in real time to requests for our atten- 
tion. More than occasionally we put aside assigned work to 
administer our computers — installing or testing or inte- 
grating new software, adding a print driver, reading a refer- 
ence manual, downloading a bug fix, or waiting for technical 
support while a system or application is down. When our 
computers are functioning, we are even more interruptible. 

According to a 1 998 Pitney Bowes survey the average 
office employee sent or received 190 messages (faxes, tra- 
ditional letters, telephone calls, and email) everyday. In 
1999, that figure grew. Nearly half of those surveyed 
reported being interrupted by six or more messages every 
hour. One of four people reported being distracted to very 
distracted by the interruptions. As a technology support 
administrator told me, "I'm lucky if I get 20 minutes of 
work done without a distraction." 

The window of our interruptibihty may soon open wider. 
Technology firms are currently prototyping "Online Presence 
Awareness" svstems that integrate Instant Messaging technolo- 



You can't create more time... 



Is it really so surprising that, absent the will to 
subordinate computers (and those who develop 
them) to the task o( reducing work, we have react- 
ed to the flood of technology products by adapting 
work to the task of computerization? With the 
pace and organization of work now parsed by 
clock cycles and paused by upgrades and in thrall 




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13 



gy into "device-aware" networks. Widespread corporate 
deployment would make it easier to find and interrupt 
employees wherever they are: at a computer desktop in a cubi- 
cle, at a laptop in a home office, or using a cell phone, pager, 
or wireless PDA anywhere. And the invasive cues of Instant 
Messaging are harder to ignore than incoming email. 

To get an increasing volume of work done, we mimic 
another computer-like behavior: multitasking. The average 
Windows desktop user has at least three applications run- 
ning simultaneously, and many more in the background. 
Programmers, financial services professionals, and others 
already have two or more monitors to accommodate the 
number of tasks they track or work on simultaneoulsy. 
Computer support administrators routinely talk on the 
phone, chat via Instant Messaging, compose or check email, 
and glance at two, three, or more windows on their moni- 
tors, all approximately at the same time. Some of us claim 
to be managing it. Others aspire to do so. What can be said 
is that, in a perverse way, multitasking is well suited to the 
interruptible work environment. But what does it bode? 

Concluding that "the number of tasks to which people 
are simultaneously applying themselves is multiplying like 
some mutant breed of postmodern rabbit," a NewYork Times 
reporter ehcited the following testimonial from a database 
design businessman: 

'You can't be as focused... you feel like you're always 
trying to conceal the amount of tasks you're juggling. It 
does create a real anxiety, and it's hard sometimes to even 
put your finger on what it is. It's knowing I can't ever be 
done or shut things out." 

In the 1970s we called this "multiphasic behavior." It 
was diagnosed as a pathological compulsion to do many 
things at once. Today a Microsoft spokesperson calls it "con- 
tinuous partial attention." It is conceded, accepted, even 
lauded as part of the new way to work, even though it like- 
ly increases the time needed to get work done and, for want 
of focus, invites mistakes that require rework. 

Multitasking grounds the widespread perception that 
we are working faster and working more. When multitask- 
ing, we really are trying to do more work in the same 
amount of time. 

Computerization extends beyond the traffic in artificial 
obsolescence. It is a new and disruptive force that has put 
workers in an impossible situation. With a variety of soft- 
ware, hardware and computer networks evolving at warp- 
speed, we are surrounded by less than reliable, not quite 
compatible tools and unpredictable computer environ- 
ments as performance expectations rise, deadlines shorten 
and interruptions mount. Computerization is a script for 
stress, overtime — and multitasking. 

Silicon Valley is unlikely to relent. It has an abiding 



interest in selling new products as quickly as possible to the 
largest number of workplaces. Indulged by policy and opin- 
ion makers, computerization has become our national 
creed. It is, however, vulnerable. 

Computerization has introduced a fugitive economics 
— a status quo that is officially characterized as prosperous 
and productive but that is ultimately neither. Is is an act that 
may prove difficult to sustain. To many, the new economy is 
no longer comprehensible. 

We are in need of a new economics that speaks to our 
social history. We might begin by insisting on a reckoning of 
our unrecorded overtime and a recalculation of the work 
time and productivity figures. The revised figures would 
make it more difficult to justify computerization in its cur- 
rent, anti-automation manifestation. They might also 
prompt demands to renoxmce the salaried worker's exemp- 
tion from mandatory overtime laws. 

In the meantime, computerization propels the fabled 
cycle of creative destruction. The destruction unfolds at 
ungovernable rates, and the new arrives without the 
rewards and efficiencies Schumpeter projected. A recession 
is already slowing the cycle, but it will take more to chal- 
lenge the perceived supremacy of computerization. It may 
take more people working even longer and more fi'antical- 
ly. MacLeish and our grandparents would have recognized 
this for what, among other things, it surely is: the speed-up 
and overwork of a crude machine age. Will we? 

The Digital Leash may have no visible wires, but it is 
real . We must learn to see it before we can cast it off. T 

Notes 

1 . Archibald MacLeish, "Machines and the Future," The Nation, 8 

February, 1933 

2. John Cassidy, "The Productivity Mirage," NewYorker, 27 
November 2000 

3. Louis Uchitelle, Economic View New York Times, January 18, 

1999; Stephen Roach, "In Search of Productivty," Harvard 
Business Review, September- October 1998. The service sector 
employs nearly 80% of the part of the work force not working 
for the government or on farms. More than 2/3 of them are in 
white-collar jobs. And nearly half of these are information work- 
ers, a group growing so rapidly that some (Roach) now charac- 
terize it as the largest "occupational category in America." 

4. James Gleick, Faster : The Aceleration of Just About Everything (New 
York: Random House, 1999) 

5. Po Bronson, The Nudist on the Late Shift and Other True Tales of 
SiliconVallej (NewYork: Random House, 1999) 

6. Arlie Hochschild The Time Bind: When Work Becomes Home and Home 
Becomes Work (NewYork: Henry Holt, 1997) 

7. Daniel Levine, "Taking stock of how unfair the economy is" San 
Francisco Examiner-Chronicle January 9,2000 

8.Thorstein Veblen, The Discipline of the Machines, excerpted in 
Visions ofTechnology, ed. Richard Rhodes, Touchstone: NewYork, 
1999 



Less Money . . . More Change! 



14 



More World . . . Less Bank! 

PPiDCESSED kUDFLD E-DDl 



TALE OF TOIL 

The Filing Cabinet 
IS ON Fire 

by Clayton Peacock 

Last year, while packing up a damaged Macintosh G3 
Powerbook for repair, I took a call on the company 
cell phone reserved for support issues. It was our 
CFO, calling from thirty thousand feet. In the background 
I could hear a stewardess taking drink orders. 

"I just spilled juice on myThinkpad,"he mumbled. 

"Was it powered on when you spilled?" 

"Yes." 

It was fried. 

"What happened?" I asked. 

"The screen turned all sorts of colors. Now there's this 
awful smell." 

In my four years of technical support, I've seen only a 
handful of laptops sustain a hot spill without total data loss. 
I told this to our CFO. 

"I understand," he said gen- 
erously. "So long as I still have 
my email." 

I waved away the colleague 
I'd been helping when I took the 
call, shoved the receiver into the 

crook of my neck, and began a speech I find myself giving 
about twice a week. Email messages and attachments, I 
explain, are downloaded from the company's mail server to 
an employee's own machine. This means all email records, 
such as sent mail and saved correspondence, are stored on the 
local computer. If the hard -drive on that computer is unread- 
able, the email is too. 

I wait for my cue. 

"I thought you backed everything up." 

I continue my spiel. We can't back up two hundred 
machines each night, because of storage requirements, 
licensing costs, and logistical problems, such as backing up 
laptops that aren't here. Consequently, 
company policy is that employees are 
responsible for their own backups. I refer 
to the backup policy and step-by-step 
instructions posted on our internal web- 
site. I stop talking. 



habits rarely change for more than a few weeks. When they 
drop their laptop six months later and the disk fails to boot, 
they become, once again, the blindsided victim. 

The problem is much larger than crashed disks. There 
are plenty of creative ways to lose your data in the digital 
office. Some of the nastier ones are damaged resource forks 
(on Macs); unreadable file allocation tables (on PCs); or 
locking yourself out of the BIOS. The most common, how- 
ever, is the most psychologically damaging: the corrupt 
mailbox. This is a phenomenon whereby the more email 
one saves, the more likely the folders storing that email will 
fail. It is like saying the more paper you stuff into a filing 
cabinet, the more likely that cabinet will burst into flames. 

In a company of just under 1 50 employees, I see about 
three filing cabinets burst into flames per week. Typically the 
employees leave me a quavery voicemail, then hang up and 
hunt me down. I've learned to spot them as they speed- walk 
through the cubicles, heads spinning in a periscopic panic. 
When they find me they are pleasant, feigning control. 

"You're probably busy, but. . ." 

I stare at pupils the size of disk platters. 



This fiction that email is forever — 
recoverable so long as someone knows 
what they're doing — is half the reason 
people like me have a job. The other half is 
breaking the news. It doesn't matter how 
many times I warn an employee that their 
data is in a permanent state of peril — 90% 
of them won't back it up. Even if a worker 
loses a year's worth of email in a disk crash, 

PRDCESSED lUDRLD E-DDl 



If there is any hope to be found in the accelerating binge- 
and-purge cycles of information, it is in these epiphanies 
following catastrophic loss, when one is most receptive to 
radical reassessments of the meaning of work. 

"My email won't open." The women often put their 
hand on my arm. 

"I'll drop by your cube and take a look," I say. "Just give 
me a few minutes." 

They don't move. "I can't lose my email." 
Before I've reached their workspace, they've repeated 
this half a dozen times, seeming to recite it as much for 
their sake as my own. By 'I can't lose my email,' they don't 
just mean "I can't lose my client folders and to-do lists." 
They also mean letters to family and friends, flirtations with 
lovers at other jobs, address books, calendars entries, per- 
sonal memos — in short, the ongoing record of a parallel 
social life most employees carry on dur- 
ing work hours. 

This is hardly because workers are 
slacking off. The expansion of the work 
sphere into private lives has made social- 
izing while on the job the only way to 
keep the personal life stirring. Support 
workers like myself are typically "on call" 
after work hours, getting interrupted by 
the obscene rattle of the Nokia cell 
phone at every conceivable hour because 
another employee, also working longer 
than they should, has run into technical 
difficulties. I've lost count of the number g 
of routine, work-related email threads ^ 
that begin on a Saturday afternoon, and n 

15 




by Sunday morning have elicited replies from all half-dozen 
people on the distribution list. Is this because the employ- 
ees just happened to be checking personal email on a 
Saturday night? Or is it because of a perception that work, 
made ever harder to leave behind with the advent of email 
and cell phones, never really ends? 

Whatever the answer, for many of us in the so-called 
new economy, a good portion of our private life has shifted 
to the eminently fragile, work-defined locus of the laptop 
computer. Despite the daily hauling of the workstation 
between home and office, despite the scattered files on the 
desktop with names like "Carla's Chemistry Homework," 
few of us seem to recognize just how heavily we've come to 
rely on the machine to manage our private affairs until the 
inevitable catastrophe occurs. The employee whose com- 
puter won't boot is spooked by something much larger and 
more emotionally charged than the possibility of losing 
company assets. 

I ask the obvious question. 

"No."They look stunned. "How do I do that again?" 

I give them the second half of my spiel. They fidget. 
They put their hands on their forehead. 



They ask about Norton UtiUties. 

I pop the yellow CD into the drive. I don't tell them 
that Norton is probably the most overrated software on the 
market. Instead I lean over to make sure they see the splash 
screen showing Peter Norton, his armpit on the vents of a 
monitor gun. Somehow he's a comforting figure. 

After Norton is through with its quackery, I take the 
laptop back to the tech area, where now and then I manage 
to resurrect an OS without losing the file system, or to 
rebuild a mailbox without zapping the index. More com- 
monly I waste the morning booting from floppies and run- 
ning command-line diagnostics. To the victim hovering out- 
side my cube, I call out the increasingly discouraging 
results. If they ask about professional recovery services — 
which most workers seem to know about, despite their 
learned helplessness — I explain that the cost of such reme- 
dies is extortionate (as in a couple grand for a single disk) 
and there's no guarantee of getting the data you need, espe- 
cially after liquid damage. They nod gloomily. I continue 
booting from floppies. At a certain point, usually just before 
lunch, I break the news. 

If I've done my job well, the victim is prepared for the 
worst. Over the course of the 




But what about my E-MAIL!?!? 



16 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-QDl 



they've learned that plenty of other employees, including 
their illustrious CFO, have suffered similar accidents, some 
involving cocktails at thirty thousand feet. I've shared with 
them evidence of corrupt files and bad sectors and invalid 
resource forks. I've reassured them that they aren't to 
blame, even if I determine they dropped the machine. I am 
employed, in the end, to treat concussive data loss as a basic 
fact of business. I am the service technician of amnesia. 

A guy from sales asks if he should be worried about a new 
virus. He tells me it's called "HELP WITH PSYCHOTHERA- 
PY," and is supposed to delete sensitive data from a hard-drive, 
beginning with family email. I explain that such hoaxes have 
been flying around the Internet ever since Norton Anti-Virus 
hit the market. He laughs, getting my joke. 

I do not tell him that any morning he may hit the power 
on his Superslim Sony Vaio, a line of laptops which seem to 
last about six months between critical disk failures, and find 
himself staring at a DOS screen flashing his data's last 
words: "OS Not Found." 

Employees are as complicit in this fiction as the support 
staff. No one gets fired for disk failure. So most people con- 
veniently forget just how vulnerable their data is, allowing 
the false sense of security encouraged by onsite technical sup- 
port to trump our precautionary counsel. When the 
inevitable occurs, when Outlook hangs on launch, when a 
disk grinds and stops spinning, we are the authorized targets 
of their stages of grief: denial, blame, bargaining, resignation. 

Recently I've been tending to an epidemic of sudden 
death syndrome among Macintosh G3 Powerbooks, traceable 
to a faulty internal power adapter. On a Sunday morning not 
so long ago, I awoke to the crying of the Nokia cell at 7:00 
AM. The caller, one of our star employees, follows the eti- 
quette of these intrusions by first apologizing for phoning me 
at home. I've become quite cynical about these apologies. 
The very availability of an after-hours support line means that 
most workers, when faced with a glitch they can't solve, will 
place the call anyway. Half the time the problem is inter- 
twined with some personal conflict on their computer, like a 
botched installation of Tomb Raider for their kid. I am polite 
but curt during these calls. While I make a reasonable effort 
to help, there is nothing I am concentrating on more intent- 
ly than a way to gracefiilly hang up. 

This time, given the caller's rank, I can't do that. He 
tells me he's unable to turn on his Powerbook. Still in 
bed, I walk him through some diagnostics to determine if 
it's another faulty 
power adapter. I 
explain how to 
remove the bat- 
tery, how to 
manipulate a 
paper clip to 
reach the reset 
button on the 
rear of the 

PFDCESSED kUDPiLD E-ODl 



machine, how to manually discharge the capacitors. After 
several such tests, I have my answer. 

"It's dead," I say sleepily. 

"So what am I supposed to do?" 

I tell him he'll need to ship the Powerbook to the main 
office, so I can remove the hard disk, transfer the data to a 
spare machine, ship that new powerbook back to him, and 
return the malfunctioning computer to the Apple Repair 
Center. I add that it will be about 72 hours before he has a 
working Powerbook in his hands. 

"That's impossible," he says. "I'm on deadline." 

I offer to ship the spare powerbook to him first thing 
Monday morning. The caveat is that I won't be able to trans- 
fer any data to the machine before shipping it out. 

I wait for my cue. 

"Will I still have my email?" 

I continue. 

"Look," he interrupts me, sputtering. "I'll tell you what 
I want. I don't care if I get a Powerbook, a Toshiba, a Radio 
Shack special — I don't care. At this point all I want is a 
computer that works — one that doesn't break down every 
fucking month." 

It's a reasonable request, however unreasonably it may be 
phrased, and one I hear frequently in the negotiation stage of 
data grief. But I can't promise anything of the kind. 
Computers are only getting tetchier, thanks to the insane 
cramming of parts into the shrinking laptop shell, and to the 
progressively buggier operating systems that control them. 
There isn't a portable computer on the market that doesn't 
have, well, issues. Toshibas have problems with hardware pro- 
files, something that has woken me up dozens of times when 
employees accidentally boot into an offline configuration. 
Macintosh Powerbooks, despite their name, ship with the 
most unreliable power-management chips on the planet. The 
less expensive iBooks ship with a hard disk Fisher- Price 
would be ashamed of. IBM's 560 line ofThinkpads, thanks to 
a "flexible" design, conk out after a few months of "flexing" 
the motherboard beneath the keyboard, eroding the circuit- 
ry and causing spontaneous reboots, usually in the middle of 
typing, until the machine can't make it past the Windows 
splash screen without restarting in an infinite boot loop. 
Toshiba Porteges suffer aneurysms at a system level if 
improperly lifted from the docking station. The Ust goes on. 
Thus to furnish a laptop "that doesn't break down every fuck- 
ing month" is fiicking impossible. I say as much to the 




Powerbook victim. 

"You mean every laptop is going to break?" he asks. 

I say, well, yes. 

"That's lousy. That's really fucking lousy." Still groggy, I 
can't tell if he's directing this at me or the computer indus- 
try at large. The truth is somewhere in between. To most 
employees I am the closest thing they know to an actual 
representative of the computer industry. As such, I become 
a lightning rod for their disillusionment with technology. 
Once this anger passes, and an employee is back to banging 
on a laptop, the rage of these exchanges is forgotten. I 
return to my spurious role as computer fixer, and the 
employee to their faith in the machine. It is a mutual decep- 
tion, on which the business keeps going, my rent paid, my 
days filled. So why should I kick against the goad? 

A former executive was in the habit of leaving his 
Powerbook at work over weekends, locked on his desk but 
visible to anyone walking by. One Friday night his cubicle 
neighbors hosted a pre-weekend drinking party, with sugary 
cocktails offered to all. A partygoer left an vmfinished bever- 
age on top of the officer's corner cube. Over the next 48 
hours the mixture ate through the paper cup, dribbling lol- 
hpop cocktail all over his machine. By the time he showed up 
on Monday, the cocktail had seeped through his keyboard and 
into the metal casing of his hard disk. The Powerbook spun 
loudly a few times, sputtered, and died within thirty seconds 
of taking power. 

He was initially determined to retrieve his "mission-crit- 
ical" spreadsheets and subscription records from the disk. I 
recited the usual warning about liquid spills being especially 
destructive to data, but went ahead to obtain quotes from 
specialists in hardware triage. No one would even look at the 
disk for less than a couple hundred bucks. Assuming the data 
could be recovered — for which there was no guarantee — the 
consensus estimate was a couple of grand. The executive 
finally decided, like so many before him, that the informa- 
tion, on second thought, wasn't so critical after all. "I feel 
quite Zen about it," he said. A few months later, he quit. 

If there is any hope to be found in the accelerating binge - 
and-purge cycles of information, it is in these epiphanies fol- 
lowing catastrophic loss, when one is most receptive to radi- 
cal reassessments of the meaning of work. It's hard not to feel 
betrayed by the mixed message of the new economy — infor- 
mation is simultaneously indispensable and disposable — when 
your entire workspace explodes and everyone's reaction is, 
"Hey, it happens." Even still, without the cathode-ray reflec- 
tion of your email routine, you are more likely to notice the 
crumbs on the keyboard, accrued over a year of taking lunch 
indoors; or the flicker of the fluorescent lights, now unbear- 
ably obscene; or the streaming of the afternoon sun. Are you 
really working, if your workspace has disappeared? If not, are 
you therefore not working? And if you're not working and no one 
seems to notice, why not leave the building altogether and go 
do somethinp useftil ... or fun? T 




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PPiDCESSED kUDPiLD E-DDl 



Intellectual Property: 
The Attack on Public Access to Culture 



by Howard Besser 

Under the guise of a response to the digital age, the 
corporate "content industry" has targeted our basic 
right to free speech, including satire and social 
commentary. The insidious vehicle: copyright law. In 1996 
in Wired, law professor Pam Seimuelson assailed the "copy- 
right grab" by pubUshers, motion picture studios, music dis- 
tributors, among others. Since that time, the industry has 
become more aggressive about strengthening protection for 
copyright holders and weakening public rights. 

Many holders of copyright view it as an "economic 
right." US copyright law, however, was actually established 
to promote the "public good" by encouraging the produc- 
tion and distribution of content. Article 1, Section 8 of the 
US Constitution states: 

The Congress shall have power ...to provide for the 

... general welfare of the United States 7b promote the 

progress oj^ science and useful arts, by securing Jor limited times 

to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective 

writings and discoveries; [emphasis added] 

The rationale behind copyright is that granting creators 
temporary monopoly rights over their creations will encour- 
age them to create more. The real goal is to ensure that new 
knowledge will be developed and circulated. 

Underpinning much of the recent rhetoric by the "con- 
tent industry" is a view of copyright as an unlimited eco- 
nomic right. This logic is misguided. The economic rights 
granted by copyright are merely a byproduct of attempts to 
fulfill the societal need to increase creativity. Though it 
granted Congress the power to give creators monopoly 
control over their creations, the Constitution was careful to 
insert the phrase "for lim- 
ited times." 

Prior to the digital age 
a delicate balance had 
emerged between copy- 
right holders and the gen- 
eral public. Copyright 
holders had certain exclu- 
sive rights over their mate- 
rial, but those rights were 
tempered by access rights 
held by the public. The 
three most important pub- 
lic rights were the public 
domain, fair use and first 
sale. 




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Copyright has always been a temporary monopoly. 
When a copyright expires, the work enters the public 
domain, a diverse unregulated public space. Anyone can draw 
on material in the public domain for any purpose whatsoev- 
er. Unlike material under copyright, no one can charge for 
using the public domain or prevent the use of such work. A 
rich pubhc domain has allowed creativity to flourish. Because 
Romeo and Juliet is in the public domain, we have a wide vari- 
ety of creative interpretations — from a version set in con- 
temporary Mexico to West Side Storj — all without having to 
get permission from a copyright holder. The public domain is 
a critical public space, an essential part of both education and 
creativity. 

Fair Use, a common practice codified into law in the 
1976 Copyright Act, limits a copyright holder's monopoly 
over the use of his/her work by permitting copying under 
a limited set of circumstances for uses such as education, 
private study and satire. The fair use doctrine assumes cir- 
cumstances that constitute a compelling enough social good 
that even if a copyright holder wants to prevent them, the 
law will not support it. Fair use allows students to photo- 
copy copyrighted articles for personal use, teachers to read 
excerpts from copyrighted works in class, reviewers to 
quote from copyrighted works in their published reviews, 
and satirists to incorporate portions of copyrighted works, 
h also permits repurposing and recontextualization for 
parody or social comment. Re -using something for a pur- 
pose other than its original intention is a fundamental part 
of creativity. Kids play-act in clothes made for grown-ups, 
they use tin cans for telephones, and they create collages 
from magazine photos and articles. Creative adults con- 

^ stantly repurpose content 

in a wide variety of social 
commentary situations 
(from rap music sampling, 
to collage illustrations, to 
postmodern art). The 
elimination of fair use 
would not only hurt edu- 
cation and social welfare, 
but could stifle the very 
creativity and content pro- 
duction that copyright was 
intended to foster. 

The First Sale doctrine 
limits a rights holder's con- 
trol over a copy of a work 



PRDCE55ED kUDFLD E-DDI 



19 



to the first time that copy is sold. According to first sale, any- 
one who purchases a work can then do what they want with 
that copy — resell, lend, share, or destroy it — without ever 
consulting the rights holder. Among other social benefits, this 
doctrine has permitted libraries, used bookstores, and used 
record stores to operate without having to consult with a 
rights holder each time they lend or sell a work. 

Attempts to eliminate the first sale doctrine in the dig- 
ital age raise even more critical issues. A key aspect of first 
sale has prevented the rights holder of intellectual property 
fi-om completely controlling access to it and how it is used. 
Though an off-line publisher, newspaper or Hollywood stu- 
dio might limit the audience for an initial set of sales, some- 
one buying the work could turn around and sell it to any- 
one else. In proposed digital age legislation, however, the 
purchaser of a work could not legally sell it or give it away 
without permission. In a world without first sale: 

• publishers could refuse to distribute to unfriendly critics 

• organizations could prevent gadflies or consumer groups 
from viewing documents that might be used to paint 
them in unflattering terms 

• authors could prevent known satirists from getting 
copies of their works 

• libraries would not be able to lend works 

The proposed elimination of fair use and first sale for 
digital material will gut much of copyright's ability to pro- 
mote the public interest, turning it into a vehicle that guar- 
antees economic rights to copyright holders. 

Taken together, public domain and fair use have 



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allowed satire and social commentary to flourish. Without 
them, copyright holders could not only charge for the re- 
use of material, but could also limit creative use not to the 
holder's liking. A recent example of this occurred in Spring, 
2001. The estate of Margaret Mitchell was able to tem- 
porarily block the publication of a satire of the sexism and 
racism in Gone with the Wind by claiming that the satire ( The 
Wind Done Gone) infringed on their copyrighted story and 
characters. A higher court eventually allowed book's publi- 
cation, but as the content industry becomes more success- 
ful at changing the laws, look for more suits like this one. 

How the Digital Age is Different 

The content industry fears that fair use and first sale in 
the digital age will cause them to lose significant control over 
their copyrighted content, threatening their profits. Because 
a digital work is so easy to copy, many rights holders fear that 
fair use provides a loophole for those who wish to redistrib- 
ute a work. They also fear that first sale will permit their first 
buyer to redistribute a work for fi-ee, ruining the rights hold- 
er's market and destroying authorship incentives. The con- 
tent industry is pressing for legislation which would virtual- 
ly eliminate fair use and first sale in the digital world. 

There are at least two key problems with the content 
industry's position: (1) in the past they have raised the 
specter of massive financial loss due to copying, yet history 
has proven their fears groundless; and (2) even if the con- 
tent industry faces loss of control in the digital age, their 
proposed legal changes will result in an immense loss for 
the public, and tip the delicate balance of copyright law 
firmly to the side of the industry. 

When home video recorders were introduced in the 
U.S. in 1975, the content industry feared massive copyright 
infringement. In 1976 key members of the content indus- 
try (Walt Disney Productions and Universal City Studios) 
filed suit requesting an injunction against the manufacture 
and marketing of Betamax videorecorders.They contended 
that these machines would cause them significant financial 
harm in that individuals could use them for copying pro- 
tected intellectual property. A landmark 1984 U.S. 
Supreme Court decision (Sony Corporation of America et al. v. 
Universal City Studios, Inc. et al.) recognized home video- 
recording as a fair use, and allowed Sony to continue mar- 
keting the machines. 

In the course of litigation, representatives of the con- 
tent industry strongly supported the Universal /Disney 
position, jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture 
Association of America, called the Betamax a "parasitical" 
device. He claimed thatVCRs posed significant threats to 
the film industry's markets: 

• because cable television subscribers could record off the 
air and lend recordings to fi^iends, very few people would 
subscribe, and cable TV would dry up 

• because people could tape off the air then fast-forward 
through commercials, TV advertising revenues would tumble 

PPiDCESSED LUDPiLD E-ODl 



• if people could tape movies off the air and watch them at 
home for free, they would stop going to movie theaters, 
and the studios would face financial hardship 
None of these dire predictions have come true: the 
cable television industry is financially healthy, television 
advertising revenues haven't tumbled, and movie theaters 
still attract a healthy business. Ironically, the studios that 
tried to prevent the use of home video recorders now make 
almost half their income from rentals and sales to the home 
video market. 

In the past four years, legislators re-shaping intellectual 
property law have heard vociferous testimony from the con- 
tent industry about looming tremendous losses unless copy- 
right laws are tightened. Most of the proposed legislation has 
responded directly to these fears in ways that will effectively 
eliminate fair use and first 
sale in the digital age. Public 
interest coahtions (including 
libraries, educational institu- 
tions and consumer groups) 
have countered that new leg- 
islation should preserve the 
kind of balance between 
rights holders and the public 
interest that existed with ana- 
log material . 

What Has Copyright 
Become? 

The framers of the US 
Constitution envisioned 

intellectual property law as 
guaranteeing a set of tempo- 
rary monopoly rights to indi- 
viduals — "authors and 
inventors" — to encourage 
the production of new works. 
Economic changes have ere 
ated the current situation in 
which creators have not had 
the resources or means to 
disseminate their creations. 
Today most creators have lit- 
tle choice but to sell their 
copyright to corporations 
who then disseminate these 
works. For the most part, 
copyrights are not held by 
individuals, but by corporate 
entities. The content industry 
would argue that strengthen- 
ing their position allows them 
to provide greater incentives 
to individual creators, but 



many creators challenge that notion (National Writers Union 
president Jonathan Tasini just won a suit against the New York 
Times on behalf of freelance writers.) Strength-ening copy- 
right laws bolsters the position of the content industry by 
giving it an untempered monopoly over content, at the 
expense of the public good. It does Httle to encourage the 
creation of new content. 

Proposed legislation to turn copyright laws into eco- 
nomic guarantees for the holders is but the most recent 
attempt by the content industry to tilt the balance in their 
favor. If content providers have their way, intellectual prop- 
erty use will move away from domains that have at least 
some provision for public good and social benefit (e.g. as 
fair use and first sale) — into arenas where only economic 
relationships apply- 




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Limited Time 

The "limited time" duration of copyright guaranteed that 
works would enter the public domain relatively quickly. This 
provision was instrumental in ensuring that the law promot- 
ed the creation of new works, rather than the extraction of 
profits from content. The duration of a copyright guarantee 
has increased over time. A 1709 British law set copyright for 
14 years. Prior to 1976, copyright was granted for 28 years 
and renewable for another 28 years. The 1976 Copyright Act 
increased the term to 75 years, and the 1998 Sonny Bono 
Term Extension Act increased it still further — to 95 years for 
corporations and 70 years after death for individuals. 

Intense lobbying and public relations efforts by the con- 
tent industry reveals a desire to see the public domain com- 
pletely eliminated. In fact, provisions within the 1998 Digital 
Millenium Copyright Act took works that had fallen into the 
public domain and put them back 
under copyright. The two companion 
1998 copyright acts placed a wade 
variety of materials that should be 
entering the public domain back 
under copyright control for at least 
another 20 years (which gives the 
content industry ample time to 
extend copyright again). Songs like 
Irving Berlin's Blue Skies, Harry Woods' 
When the Red, Red Robin Comes Bob, Bob 
Bobbin' Along, and Hammerstein and 
Kern's OF Man Rjver and Showboat 
should all enter the pubHc domain 
next year, as should stories by Virginia 
Woolf, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Ben Hecht, 
Rudyard Kipling, P. G. Wodehouse, 
and Zane Grey. All of the above have 
been placed under copyright control 
for at least another 20 years. 

Some content industry promoters defend their 
encroachments on the public domain by claiming that the 
new economic models of the digital age will eliminate the 
need for a public domain. They contend that maintaining 
copyright in perpetuity allows them to create "micro-pay- 
ment" delivery systems, thus allowing anyone to access older 
content for just a few pennies per use. However, copyright is 
as much about control as it is about access. Under the system 
being proposed rights holders will be able to prevent uses not 
in their own interest. Following their logic would turn the 
public domain into a controlled pseudo-public space where 
information is clearly a commodity to be bought and sold. 

This lengthening of copyright duration flies in the face of 
the Constitution, which, as noted, granted Congress the 
right to institute copyright protections for limited times. A 
robust public domain of copyright-free material allows cre- 
ators to draw on and incorporate history into new works. It 



22 



OUT OF SEASON TO TASTE 

Those little scooters are everywhere 
like anti-SUVs 

or computers Gust add legs and hair) 
or upbeat franchisees 

Hooters opens up the street 
Have faith, it closes too 

Sidewalk scooters too will pass, 
all at once, as if on cue 

Only the computers keep coming on 
When fingers grow from them, we're done 

by klipschutz 



is absurd to think of 75 or 95 years as a "limited time," and 
even more absurd to rationalize that exclusive rights lasting 
beyond one's lifetime would provide incentives to a creator 
to create more works. 

In a 1998 editorial, the New York Times (itself a major 
content-holder that benefits from strong copyright legisla- 
tion) sharply criticized the extensions of copyright duration 
that have since become law. 

"Supporters of this bill, mainly the film industry, 
music publishers and heirs who already enjoy copyright 
revenues, argue that extending copyright will improve 
the balance of trade, compensate for lengthening life 
spans and make American protections consonant with 
European practice. But no matter how the supporters of 
this bill frame their arguments, they have only one thing 
in mind: continuing to profit from copyright by chang- 
ing the agreement under which it was obtained. 

There is no justification for extending the copyright 
term. Senator Or in Hatch argues 
that the purpose of copyright is 
"spurring creativity and protecting 
authors." That is correct, and the 
current limits do just that. The pro- 
posed extension edges toward per- 
petual patrimony for the descen- 
dants, blood or corporate, of cre- 
ative artists. That is decidedly not 
the purpose of copyright. 

Copyright protects an author by 
granting him the right to profit from 
his own work. But copyright also 
protects the public interest by insur- 
ing that one day the right to use any 
work will return to the public. 
When Senator Hatch laments that 
George Gershwin's "Rhapsody in 
Blue" will soon "fall into the public 
domain," he makes the public 
domain sound like a dark abyss 
where songs go, never to be heard again. In fact, when a 
work enters the public domain it means the public can 
afford to use it freely, to give it new currency. 

. . . [T]he works in the public domain, which means 
nearly every work of any kind produced before the early 
1920's, are an essential part of every artist's sustenance, of 
every person's sustenance. So far Congress has heard no 
representatives of the public domain. It has apparently 
forgotten that its own members are meant to be those 
representatives ." 

(NYTimes, Feb. 21, 1998 editorial) 
Lengthening of copyright duration is particularly oner- 
ous in view of other attempts to assert copyright over mate- 
rial either already in the public domain or about to enter it. 
Corbis Corporation (a digital image stockhouse wholely 
owned by Bill Gates) contends that when it digitizes an image 
of an art work or photograph, the digitization creates a new 
copyright, to persist for the duration of copyright protection 
beginning with the date of digitization. If this contention is 
upheld by the courts, the digital version of works already in 

PRDCESSED LUDRLD 5.DD1 



the public domain will remain under copy- 
right protection for an additional 95 years. 

Recently defeated legislation would 
apply copyright to an entire database, and 
start the copyright duration clock ticking 
every time a new item is added to the data- 
base. This would allow a database provider 
a perpetual copyright merely by adding 
something new to the database every 90 
years! This legislation died in Congress, but 
will be reintroduced with strong backing 
from the content industry. 

The content industry was one of the 
leading supporters of Clinton's first cam- 
paign for the presidency. Clinton appoint- 
ed former copyright industry lobbyist 
Bruce Lehman as Assistant Secretary of 
Commerce and Commissioner of Patents 
and Trademarks, where he managed efforts 
to overhaul the nation's intellectual prop- 
erty laws. Lehman was the driving force 
behind the administration's green paper 
and white paper recommendations on 
major changes to those laws. 

As copyright legislation advanced 
through Congress, content industry lobby- 
ists aggressively courted congresspeople. 
The Association of American Publishers 
(AAP) hired former congresswoman Pat 
Shroeder to head their organization. In the _ 
1 996 election, the content industry donat- 
ed over $ 1 1 million to congressional campaigns, split fairly 
evenly between Democrats and Republicans. In the early part 
of the 1998 campaign (as copyright legislation was under 
debate in Congress), Hollywood- connected donors gave 
more than $1.3 million to congressional campaigns. The con- 
tent industry also waged a strong public relations campaign, 
claiming the economy would suffer irreparable harm if copy- 
right controls were not tightened. After the Digital 
Millenium Copyright Act and the Sonny Bono Term 
Extension Act finally passed into law, a wire service story 
revealed Disney's aggressive lobbying (particularly as to por- 
tions which extended copyright protection for an additional 
20 years). Hardly surprising, as Disney's copyright over char- 
acters such as Mickey Mouse, Goofy, and Donald Duck was 
due to expire. Equally unsurprising, a week after the Digital 
Millenium Copyright Act became law, Bruce Lehman 
resigned his Administration post, having accompHshed most 
of his goals on behalf of the content industry. 

Licensing 

For the past decade, most publishers have refused to 
sell material in digital form to libraries. Instead, they 
require libraries to license this material. Licenses are con- 




tractual arrangements, and publishers claim that rights such 
as fair use do not apply to these arrangements. This has put 
publishers on a collision course with librarians. AAP presi- 
dent Pat Shroeder regards librarians as the enemy. 
According to a Feb. 7, 2001 article in the Washington Post, 
she complained, "Publishers want to charge people to read 
material; librarians want to give it away." 

Under licensing schemes, material is leased rather than 
bought outright. This raises a myriad of concerns for 
libraries. Licenses are for a fixed period of time at the end 
of which license fees may be raised drastically. If the mar- 
ket isn't large enough, the material may be withdrawn from 
the market. The licensor may eliminate particular items for 
economic reasons or because they are controversial, making 
it difficult for a library to build collections or maintain a his- 
torical record. 

Site licenses of digital works of art to educational insti- 
tutions can cause particular problems for teachers and stu- 
dents who build curricular or creative materials that incor- 
porate these works. They are hesitant to spend the time to 
create new materials incorporating licensed digital images 
absent some assurance that the campus license (and each 
individual image that was originally part of it) will contin- 



PPiDCESSEQ kUDRLD E.DDl 



23 



ue in perpetuity, and that they can take their creations with 
them when they leave the campus. Sabbaticals at another 
campus, faculty or students talcing positions elsewhere, or 
even showing a portfolio to a potential employer would all 
be prohibited by most licensing agreements. 

Licensing material in digital form can also raise privacy 
concerns. A trend in university licensing of digital material is 
for members of the institution to access such material direct- 
ly from a central site maintained by the publisher, rather than 
from a local site moimted by the university. This type of 
architecture requires that each individual be identified to the 
publisher as a valid member of the licensed imiversity com- 
munity. Such an approach carries the potential for dangerous 
violations of the privacy that university researchers have 
come to expect. Libraries careftilly guard circulation infor- 
mation, and many purposely destroy all but aggregate statis- 




from Tas de Riches by Tignous, 1999: Editions Denoel, 75006 Paris 



24 



tics to avoid having to respond to law enforcement agencies 
seeking an individual's reading habits. It is extremely unlike- 
ly that pubhshers will provide this kind of privacy protection. 
Many websites monitor the browsing at their site, tracking 
who is looking at what, how often and for how long. A whole 
industry has emerged that purchases this kind of personal 
marketing information from site managers and resells it. In 
lean financial times, even licensors who are committed to 
privacy concerns may find the temptation of payment for this 
kind of information difficult to resist. 

Another key concern for libraries is the way in which 
licensing digital information will affect interlibrary loans 
(ILL). Due to consolidation in the publication industry, aca- 
demic journal subscription costs have skyrocketed. The 
only way libraries have been able to respond is by develop- 
ing cooperative purchasing agreements with other nearby 
libraries. But most licensing agreements 
for journals in electronic form prohibit ILL 
or any other form of access outside the 
immediate user community. Licensing has 
the potential of not only destroying 
libraries' recent response to the rising cost, 
but may also destroy their historic cooper- 
ative lending practices. Traditionally, even 
the poorest library could employ ILL to 
borrow materials it could not afford to 
purchase. This practice is likely to be pro- 
hibited by digital age licensing agreements. 

Free Speech Suppressed with 
Intellectual Property Law 

The increasing use of licensing 
schemes to avoid domains (like fair use) 
where the public good must be taken into 
consideration is part of a larger trend 
whereby commercial transactions estaWish 
precedence over public rights. 

Libel laws have been used recently to 
try to suppress criticisms traditionally pro- 
tected by free speech. These lawsuits, filed 
by corporate entities against individuals, 
have laid the burden of proof upon the 
defendants, forcing them to prove all their 
criticisms were true. In 1998, Oprah 
Winfrey successfully (and at great cost) 
defended herself against a $ 1 2 million law- 
suit filed by the cattle industry under a 
recent food disparagement law. According 
to a NewYork Times wire service article, "crit- 
ics say that [the recent food disparagement 
laws] are a serious infringement on free- 
speech protections and are driven by busi- 
ness interests intent on silencing journalists 
and others who question the safety of the 

PRDCESSED kUDFLQ E.DOl 



American food supply." In a similar case in Britain, 
McDonalds sued activists from London Greenpeace over a 
leaflet urging consumers to boycott McDonalds for a host of 
reasons ranging from health to working conditions to the 
effects of cattle raising practices on tropical rainforests. In 
this long-running "McLibel" case, the defendants were forced 
to prove each of the accusations in their leaflet. 

Many groups use the threat of intellectual property 
infringement litigation to avoid criticism or suppress 
works. Limitations to the fair use defense against copyright 
infringement can result in the elimination of parody and 
satire, the curtailment of free speech, and the suppression 
of creativity. Below are a few recent cases (many more are 
available in the online longer version of this article at 
(http: / / www.gseis.ucla.edu/ ~howard/ Copyright) . 

• In 2000, Mattel sued artist Tom Forsythe claiming that 
his satiric photographs of Barbie dolls violated their 
copyright and trademarks. Forsythe had sold postcards 
of his photographs with the dolls posed performing 
household chores and in sexual positions, obviously 
commenting on the role of Barbie in perpetuating gen- 
der stereotypes. In February, 2001 a federal Appeals 
Court ruled that Forsythe had not violated Mattel's 
copyright or trademark. 

• In the late 1960s, satirical cartoonist Dan O'Neill creat- 
ed a mouse which he used as a minor character in an 
underground comic book that satirized corporate 
America. Walt Disney Productions sued O'Neill and his 
publisher for copyright infringement. In a series of cases 
and appeals that nearly ruined O'Neill financially, the 
courts ruled that publication of a comic including the 
mouse was a violation of Disney's copyright (Walt Disnej 




IN CASE OF FIRE 

RUSH HEADLONG 

TO YOUR OWN 

DESTRUCTION 



Productions vs The Air Pirates). The rulings in this case raise 
disturbing issues about copyright infringement being 
used to inhibit an artist from engaging in satire or paro- 
dy of a cultural icon. 

In 1998, a French AIDS awareness advertising campaign 
withdrew two ads under threat of suit by Walt Disney Inc. 
One featured Snow White in suspenders and fishnet 
stockings and the other featured Cinderella in a seductive 
pose (Disney Pressure Halts French AIDS Ad Campaign). 
Disney contended that these ads constituted copyright 
infringement. The mere threat of Utigation caused the 
AIDS awareness group to pull their ads. This incident is 
noteworthy both because it did not require actual litiga- 
tion (a mere threat assured compliance) £ind because Snow 
White and Cinderella are not Disney creations, but are 
folklore characters going back hundreds of years. 
In 1991 Negativland released a single parodying disk 
jockey Casey Kasem and U-2's song "I Still Haven't 
Found What I'm Looking For." Almost immediately U2's 
distributor (Island Records) and publisher (Warner/ 
Chappell) went to court charging copyright infringe- 
ment. After only two weeks, all recordings were pulled 
from the shelves, and the recording has never made it 
back into music stores. Several years of litigation almost 
bankrupted Negativland's members. But the band, 
which had a history of cultural satire, continued to 
adamantly defend the social importance of artistic 
appropriation such as sampling. 

"Throughout our various mass media, we now find 
many artists who work by 'selecting' existing cultural 
material to collage with, to create with, and to comment 
upon... The psychology of art has always favored frag- 
mentary 'theft' in a way that does not engender a 'loss' 
to the owner. Call this 'being influenced' if you want to 
sound legitimate." (Negativland, page 154) 
In fall, 1996, webmasters of fan sites for Star Trek began 
receiving letters from a Viacom /Paramount attorney 
charging copyright and trademark infringement. The let- 
ters demanded that all such material be removed imme- 
diately, including photographs, sound files, excerpts 
from books, and even "artistic renditions of Star Trek 
characters or other properties." A few months later it 
was revealed that Viacom/ Paramount was planning its 
own Star Trek website, and had used the threat of litiga- 
tion to remove competition. This Utigation threat had an 
additional chilling effect on free speech: a request by the 
Star Trek Usenet Discussion group (rec.arts.sf.starwars) 
to create a new subgroup dedicated to fan fiction was 
vetoed because Paramount 's litigation had claimed that 
fictional accounts using Star Trek characters or settings 
were violations of their intellectual property (see arti- 
cles by Granick, Ward). 

In 1 996, the American Society of Composers, Authors and 
Publishers (ASCAP) told the Girl Scouts that scout camps 
must start paying a licensing fee to sing any of the four 
million copyrighted songs it controlled, such as "Happy 
Birthday." Many camps went songless for months, until 
media attention generated outrage sufiicient to forced 
ASCAP to back down. But in doing so, ASCAP still insist- 
ed that it might prosecute camps for playing background 
music without a license (as opposed to singing around a 



PRDCESSED LUDRLD E-DDl 



25 



campfire). Though most citizens would bristle at ASCAP's 
attempts to charge the Girl Scouts, as a copyright holder 
the law is on its side. The Girl Scouts' only defense would 
be fair use (but only as long as fair use remains a defense). 
These cases all occurred under previous versions of copy- 
right law. More recent legislation which would further limit or 
eliminate fair use carries with it greater danger. The discourse 
over copyright legislation is dominated by discussion of "eco- 
nomic harm" to the content industry if action is not taken. The 
harm to the public good from further limitations on fair use is 
treated merely as a minor side-effect. 

Conclusion 

Together, the concepts of public domain, fair use and first 
sale form an Information Commons — a diverse public space 
for free speech and creativity. In recent years we have seen a 
powerful assault on this Commons — from bullying threats 
of litigation, to court cases, to harsh legislation. The content 
industry is not only trying to reshape copyright from a pub- 
lic good into an unlimited economic right, but is even try- 
ing to expand its control into new arenas in order to sup- 
press criticism. 

The content industry has complained vociferously about 
potential economic harm, yet its assertions seem to be spe- 
cious: The Netherlands has a much more Hberal policy than 
fair use, allowing individuals unlimited reproduction of copy- 
righted material for their own private use; and the content 
industry still operates profitably within the Netherlands. As 
the effects from the Betamax court case show, technological 



.le. 



rm 2490 



wmmm mimfi 

■IMIB 



[less data iMind-Numbing 

[Superfluous recordsi Tedium 
I Privacy violations n next right 



changes initially perceived as economically threatening can 
lead to the discovery of new economic models involving 
income streams that exceed the ones previously "threatened". 
And as the software industry has shown, lowering prices not 
only provides a great deterrence to copyright infringement, 
but can open up new markets of potential customers. 

There has always been a distinct set of differences 
between information and commodities. (For example, if I 
sell or give someone a toy, I no longer have it; but if I sell 
or give them information I still retain it.) The law has rec- 
ognized this difference by treating intellectual property dif- 
ferently than tangible property. As the law has eliminated 
various public good aspects of intellectual property, we 
have seen a rapid increase in the commodification of infor- 
mation. Intellectual property becomes more bland as it 
increasingly falls under corporate control. Individuals find 
it more difficult to become creators. Diverse voices are 
more and more marginalized. As Negativland wTote in the 
Epilogue to their book, "We are suggesting that our modern 
surrender of the age-old concept of shared culture to the 
exclusive interests of private owners has relegated our pop- 
ulation to spectator status and transformed our culture into 
an economic commodity." (Negativland, p 190) We need to 
stop the fencing off of our Information Commons and seize 
it back as a public space. 

Acknowledgements 

Portions of this article appeared in Peace Review 1 1 (March, 1999). 
Karen Gracy and Snowden Becker provided research assistance, and 
Sharon Falk provided helpful insights. 
Conversations with SamTrosow and Pam 
Samuelson, as well as participation in the 
National Research Council's panel on 
Intellectual Property, helped the author 
better understand many of the legal con- 
cepts. 

References 




26 



Besser, Howard. "Recent Copyright Law Changes 
Threaten the Public Interest," Peace Review 11(1) March 
1999, pages 25-31. 

Besser, Howard. "From Internet to Information 
Superhighway" in James Brook and lain Boal (eds.), 
Resisting the Virtual Life: The Culture and Politics of 
Information, San Francisco: City Lights, 1995, pages 59- 
70. 

Besser, Howard. "A Class of Cultures on the Internet," 
San Francisco Chronicle, August 25, 1994. 
Besser, Howard. Copyright Links. (Website) 
(http://www.gseis.ucla.edu/~howard/Copyright) 
felsenstein, Lee. "The Commons of Information," Or 
Oobbs journal, May 1993, pages 18-24 
Granick, Jennifer. "'Scotty, Beam Down the Lawyers!' 
When free speech collides with trademark law". Wired 
5:10 (October 1997) 

(http://www.wired.com/wiredA.IO/cyber_rights.html) 
Home Recording Rights Coalition. Webpages republish- 
ing Sony Betamax litigation, especially 
http://www.hrrc.org/betamax.html and 
http://www.hrrc.org/courtmem.html 
Mirapaul, Matthew. "EToys Lawsuit Is No Fun for Artist 
Group," ^rr/mej, December 9, 1999 

PRDCESSED kUnnLD E.QDl 



Shop yourself 
into heaven 




Wouldn't it be nice to Icnow tiie products you 
buy will guarantee you a pleasant afterlife? 

Contek has exclusive contracts with today's most popular 
religions and mass merchandisers, so when you shop 
with Contek, you know exactly where you're going. 



Contek 



People like you helping people like us help ourselves.' 



(http://www.nytimes.com/library/tech/99/l2/cyber/artsatlarge/09artsatlarge.html). 
Negativland. Fair Use: The Story of the Letter U and the Humeral 2, Concord, CA: Seeland, 

1995. (available via fax 510-420-0469) 
Risher, Carol. Int'l Publishers Copyright Council (IPCC) "Position Paper on Libraries, Copyright 

and the Electronic Environment," Barcelona: International Publishers Association Annual 

Meeting, April 1996 (http://www.ifla.org/documents/infopol/copyright/ipa.txt) 
Samuelson, Pam. "The Copyright Grab", W/>e(/4.0l, January 1996 
Slevin, Peter, High Tech Video Snooping Comes to Super Bowl: Snapshots of fans taken to ID 

PPlDCESSED LUDPLD E-DDl 



criminals, Satt Francisco Chronicle (Washington Post story), February 1, 2001, page A6 
Tasini, Jonathan. "They Get Cake, We Eat Crumbs: The Real Story Behind Today's Unfair 

Economy", Washington DC: Preamble Center, 1998 
Vidal, John. McLibel: Burger Culture on Trial, New York: New York Press, 1997 
Walker, Thaai and Kevin Pagan. Girl Scouts change their tunes: "Licensing order restricts use 

of favorite songs", San Francisco Chronicle, August 23, 1996, page I 
Ward, Lewis. "The Wrath of Viacom: Star Trek fans fight Viacom for their right to fair use", Sf 

Bay Guardian Online, February 1998, (http://www.sfbg.com/Extra/Feature$/trek.html) 

27 



DISTANCED EDUCATION: 

Fast Times at Ronald McDonald U* 



By Jesse Drew 

From the large land grant colleges of the Midwest to 
inner dty colleges in urban centers, US educators, 
academics, philanthropists and activists have vnan- 
aged to lay the groundwork for a system of public higher 
education — democratic in its admissions and its aspira- 
tions. Though far from perfect, these universities stand as 
vital public spaces for the intermixing of ideas, classes, cul- 
tures, aind lifestyles. As a faculty member in several public 
universities, I am saddened to see this valuable American 
resource in grave danger of being destroyed by a concerted 
campaign of absorption waged by multinational corpora- 
tions and their cadre of complicit university professionals. 

Nothing from the first 30 years of my life would have 
indicated that I would ever find myself standing at lecterns 
in the role of university professor. It is no exaggeration to 
say that, by now, thousands of students have passed a semes- 
ter or two before me, perhaps raptly absorbing, hopefully 
mulling over, possibly even sleeping through my harangues 
on art and technology, computer techniques and applica- 
tions, interface design and interactivity, art history, critical 
theory or documentary film — my words, video clips, com- 
puter demonstrations, overheads, and invocations hopeful- 
ly penetrating their central nervous systems. 

I am perhaps a most unlikely candidate for such an occu- 
pation, having left home at 1 5, a graduate of the ninth grade, 
spending the next decade on industrial assembly Unes. In my 
mind, a professor was a comical and pathetic character. The 
Mad Professor. The Nutty Professor. Goodbye Mr. Chips. In 
my favorite childhood show, the stock character known as 
"The Professor" was senile, with long gray hair and walked 
around holding an enormous book, coke bottles soldered 
onto his glasses. 

I detested most college students as well. I lived next 
door to students, who played loud obnoxious music late at 
night, when I would have to get up at 6AM for my shift at 
the factory or the construction site. Worse yet, on week- 
ends, I would be confronted with them getting hefty stu- 
dent discounts at the movies, while me and my minimum 
wage friends paid full price. 

But as an avid reader, I found myself at the University 
Library more and more, and wandering around the halls of 
an institution that allowed me to explore the realm of ideas, 
cloistered from the prevailing winds of outside reality. I 
became fascinated by Chinese History, and devoured dozens 
of books on the subject. Then I stumbled upon a large lecture 
class on contemporary Chinese history, and snuck in, soaking 
up the lectures, debates and discussions that raged around the 



auditorium. I relished experiencing people from many walks 
of hfe engaged in the exchange of ideas, an experience not 
often found within the daily routine of work and home. In a 
university setting, one could have conversations about poli- 
tics, society, history and science, about things that mattered 
to me, rather than the usual banalities dictated by mass 
media, entertainment, sports, and star trivia. Thus, still 
working, yet somehow finding time for classes, I took my 
GED and eventually earned an AS in electronics, and then a 
BA in Art. 

Involvement in both the electronics industry and the art 
world led to my being asked to teach a class in art and tech- 
nology, back when the worlds of art and electronics were not 
fused together as they are today. Energized by the ability to 
teach, I got my MA and eventually my Ph.D. and began 
teaching for a living, in the high demand areas of multimedia, 
web design, digital video and all things ars eharonka. 

I soon found myself in the stressful position of teaching 
on five different campuses. Some semesters I was burdened 
with 30 hours a week "contact" time in the classroom, the 
equivalent of two or three Fulltime faculty jobs. All this to 
make the equivalent pay of one tenure -track position. 
Though my evaluations were excellent, and my classes over- 
loaded, there were no fulltime job openings. Equally dis- 
tressing, most of my students only wanted to learn the 
short-term money-making skills, with no real interest in 
the aspects of technology that fascinated me — social 
aspects, elements of control, social justice implications, 
Utopian or dystopian ramifications. Though the mission of a 
four-year university is supposedly broad-based knowledge, 
I often found myself being little more than a technical train- 
er for the burgeoning dotcom industry. The university 
actively promoted this view of itself, to attract student "cus- 
tomers." Ultimately, I found myself deaHng with the grim 
reality that many of the subjects I taught were directly 
responsible for much of what I find reprehensible about the 
direction of higher education. 

In my decade working in industrial manufacturing and 
assembly, I learned a fair amount about what a speedup is, 
and how a speedup impacts the working conditions and 
wages of industrial workers. Little did I know that as a uni- 
versity professor I would remain within the confines of the 
same industrial system. Today's university models itself on 
the modern multinational corporation. Microsoft. Walmart. 
McDonalds. Starbucks. These are the working models, not 
some old-fashioned Socratic notion about mentors and 
peers. Today's public university president sees himself as 
CEO, and gets paid like one. Deans of Colleges frequently act 
as corporate managers, more responsible for the bottom line 



28 



PFDCESSED LUORLD E.DDl 



than the educational process. Today's chief university adminis- 
trators rarely even come from educational backgrounds, but 
are hired for their financial acumen. They perceive the faculty 
as the workforce, the students as the customers. Following 
this corporate model, the McUniversity must fight for market 
share while slashing labor costs. And they do this the same way 
other multinationals operate — by relying heavily on tempo- 
rary workers, imposing modern speedup technology, and 
weakening any unity and sohdarity among its workers. 

For decades, the industrial workforce has been decimat- 
ed by the globalization of work processes, in particular the 
offshore factory. The nature of the educational "market" does 
not permit this directly, as students are local entities. 
However, moving the university "offshore" can be accom- 
plished by moving the university into cyberspace. By digital 
duphcation and dissemination, the educational "content" can 
be re-used, sent around the globe, and even sold for a profit. 
This has become the goal of today's McUniversity CEOs. The 
present discourse of university management is dominated by 
this idea — similar to the retail industry — of getting away 
from "brick and mortar," by moving into so-called on-line or 
distance education. Unfortunately, by using the progressive 
claim of modernity, evoking false empathy for working fami- 
Ues, and releasing a barrage of high tech hype, they have been 
successful in neutrahzing the natural opponents to their plan. 

Why Johnny and Janey can surf the web 
but can't read or write 

The argument for distanced education sounds very rea- 



sonable at first. Why make thousands of students converge 
onto one location, disrupting their Hves, fighting traffic, get- 
ting dressed in the morning, when they can stay at home, log 
on, and work towards their degree? Stuffy lecture halls, 
crummy food, the tussling, shoving, sweaty crush of students, 
slurping their morning coffees. Who needs it? Stay at home, 
say the high tech proponents, and get a real education. By 
clicking icons on a screen students can watch canned or per- 
haps even hve lectures delivered from afar. By emailing an 
anonymous teacher the results, they can interact with their 
cyber-mentors. They can even take tests on the Web and get 
their answers instantly e-mailed back to them. 

A large part of the "new economy university" rests upon 
the technological savior which goes by the name of "virtual 
classroom," "distance education," "the on-line university" and 
other euphemisms forged in the chambers of university mar- 
keting departments. But for all the excitement raised from 
this so-called "revolution," a significant factor is glaringly 
absent — the students. None of these on-line experiments 
have any proven success in improving the educational 
process. But, like the once-skyrocketing stock of dotcom 
companies before they even turned a profit, the on-line 
bandwagon is now full of cheering, horn-tooting university 
professionals en route to the future, education be damned. 
Despite the absence of proven benefits, the transformation of 
the university, the dissolution of "brick and mortar," is con- 
sidered "inevitable ."What is inevitable, however, is that with- 
out a concerted opposition by faculty, students, and the pub- 
lic, higher education will cease to be an important public 




School in the Year 2000, originally an 1 899 cigarette card by Jean Marc Cote 

PE^OCESSED kUDRLD E-DDl 



29 




^a vvant fries with 
^^3t d/p/oma?? 




Pardon Our Construction 

WeVe Building the New Corporate University! 

Learning to Swim where there's No Water! 

To prepare you for the working world, here at Biz U. we're creating a uniquely 
temporary environment. Temp teachers, temp administrators and staffers, even 
temp students! After our environment of pervasive insecurity, you'll really learn how 
to thrive in the New Economy. 

Distanced Education: 

In today's busy world, who's got time for active learning, exposure to a diverse 
student body, or discussing ideas with others? Today's Biz U. is spending millions so 
you can receive canned educational products via TV or computer in the isolation of 
your home or cubicle! Critical thinking doesn't pay. Business needs programmers, 
not artists or philosophers! 

Money for Prisons, not for Education: 

Besides paying for the bloated salaries of our CEO administrators, we're putting 
your tax dollars where they're really needed — building jails! In today's market-driven 
social climate, prisons are simply a better economic investment. Why else do you 
think prison guards make so much more money than teachers? 



venue for the exchange and incubation of ideas, but will be 
permanently subject to the forces of "the market." 

Unlike most university administrators, as a student I've 
had two such experiences with on-line /distance technolo- 
gies of instruction, both of which were considered abject fail- 
ures by the students. Each class involved two dual class- 
rooms, coexisting side by side, yet separated by hundreds of 
miles. Our classrooms existed as alternate universes, where 
the professors took turns delivering lectures to the classroom 
in which he was physically present, as well as casting his 
words off into the other on-line classroom. After the lec- 
tures, both classes could interact in front of a camera lens, 
controlled remotely by an appointed student in the class. The 



classes were accompanied by e- 
mail listserves as well as a web page 
component. 

The novelty at first was pleas- 
ant. For the first half hour, people 
craned around the monitor to see 
what the other class looked Hke. 
Lots of laughter and merriment 
ensued over a few minor technical 
J blunders, and the awkwardness of 
the situation. But when we tried 
to get down to a real discussion, it 
foundered. It was as if the two 
classrooms were tumblers in an 
hour glass, a lot of sand struggling 
to flow, but only one grain at a 
time could pass. Without physical 
presence, our convictions were 
filtered out. We could see and 
hear someone, but without con- 
text. Nuance and tone were 
blanched out. Side discussions in 
the rooms, often important to 
developing a context, could not 
be communicated. Conversation 
became burdensome and heavy. As 
a result, people's intentions were 
often interpreted wrongly. 
Friendly smiles were perceived as 
smirks, irony and sarcasm taken at 
face value. 

E-mail discussion lists coin- 
cided with the audio/visual expe- 
rience. Usually the e-mail discus- 
sion at the end of the class was "Is 
that what you meant to say?" or "I 
don't think you really understood 
me ."Towards the end of the class, 
myself and a fellow student trav- 
eled SOO miles to meet with class- 
mates from the other class. We 
were amazed how often we had totally misread our fellow 
students. 

One glaring example was when we queried our fellow 
students at a distance, most of whom were of Mexican ori- 
gin, about their views on the recent Zapatista uprising in 
Mexico. We had a half-hour disjointed discussion, and we 
came away perplexed about their negative opinion as to the 
uprisin, which contradicted our understanding that 
Mexican young people broadly supported it. Later on, in e- 
mail discussion, we learned that in fact they all supported 
the Zapatistas. In fact, several of them had participated in 
mass demonstrations of support. 

In the end the on-line element of the class proved 



30 



PRDCESSED kUORLQ E.QDI 



amusing, perhaps useful in very limited applica- 
tions, but mostly a waste of time. These classes 
were not mere experiments, however, but pilot 
programs destined to replace the traditional 
classroom experience, and to eliminate a pro- 
fessor at either end of the delivery system. 

These tele-distance classes were funded to 
the tune of millions of dollars by communica- 
tions consortiums, in order to prove to the uni- 
versity that it was in their best interest to go on- 
line. The faculty member in charge of one of 
these classes was highly compensated by the tel- 
com consortium. He went out of his way to slap 
a happy veneer on the results of his research, 
and to scorn his "dinosaur" colleagues who did- 
n't come aboard the techno train. He pointedly 
advised students to give a good evaluation of our 
distance learning experience, so as not to appear 
ungracious or unthankful for the technology 
bestowed upon us. (The same consortium was 
vying to convince the state medical establish- 
ment that it could eliminate doctors in outlying 
areas also. Patients out in the boondocks would 
stand in front of a machine and get checked by 
doctors who wouldn't have to leave the comfort 
of their offices.) 

The rich get educated, 
the poor get trained 

The battle over who controls the universi- 
ty has its origins in the 1960s. The McUniversity 
serves what modern corporate America wants 
for its workforce, and educated students with a 
critical understanding of their role in the world 
is not on the menu. The money lost to the successful right- 
wing battle for the defunding of public higher education has 
now been replaced by widespread slavish begging for cor- 
porate money. Departments make deals with corporations 
that put them in good graces with their "sponsors." At one 
university I was informed that a tenure track faculty mem- 
ber was hired not because he was a good teacher, but 
because he came attached with a million dollar corporate 
grant. At a faculty meeting, the Dean said to a room of part- 
time temporary faculty that we must "learn to do fundrais- 
ing" to keep our jobs. This from a guy making $148,000 a 
year. I regularly see broadcasting and technology-related 
departments making long-term procurement commit- 
ments to technology corporations, in a field where winners 
and losers often come and go in matter of months. Such 
deals hobble these departments with a single brand of tech- 
nology for many years, eliminating their ability to objec- 
tively compare and contrast. And yet, they are commended 
by the administration and envied by the faculty. This empha- 
sis on corporatization has resulted in a demoralizing of the 



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faculty, and a death-blow to the concept of a real education. 
Pedagogy has been replaced by patronage. 

Whatever pedagogical preconceptions professors may 
beUeve in are shunted aside in the implementation of the on- 
line university. The foundation of learning is no longer based 
upon cin interactive learning experience, but is predicated 
upon what Freire refers to as the "banking" system of educa- 
tion — the students as empty receptacles to be filled through 
the spigot of digital channels of dissemination. To their dis- 
credit, many faculty members have surrendered their peda- 
gogical concerns and moved to accept the McUniversity pre- 
suppositions. But, digital conversion comes with its own 
arrogant assumptions. Prime among them is that the teaching 
process is one-way, flowdng from teacher to student. I beg to 
differ. Students often learn more from other students than 
from the teacher. And faculty also learn fi-om students! 
Learning is a collective, interactive experience, which is pre- 
cisely what an on-line environment does not permit. 

In the banking concept of education, knowledge 
becomes a gift bestowed upon those who know nothing. 



PRDCESSED kJJDFLD 5.DD1 



31 



Projecting an absolute ignorance 
onto others, a characteristic of the 
ideology of oppression, negates 
education and knowledge as 
processes of inquiry. The teacher 
presents him or herself to his stu- 
dents as their necessary opposite; 
by considering their ignorance 
absolute, he justifies his own exis- 
tence. Students, ahenated like the 
slave in the Hegelian dialectic, 
accept their ignorance as justifying 
the teacher's existence — but, 
unlike the slave, they never discov- 
er that they educate the teacher.' 

The political ramifications of 
the distance university are enor- 
mous. Universities have always been 
a raucous, seething pool of political 
discontent, one of the last places 
with a truly public character, neither 
mall nor city hall. A gathering place 

of people fi-om all walks of life; a fertile swamp of ideas, cul- 
tures, races. Asian Student Unions. Black Student Unions. 
Mecha. Gay Student Unions. Socialists. Communists. 
Religious Preachers. Bible Thumpers. Palestinians. IsraeUs. 
Hip-Hoppers. Jocks. Hippies. Punks. The whole gamut of the 
modern American scene. How tempting, then, to eliminate 
it all, funnel individuals through the glowing Netscape 
palette of the university portal. A sanitized, whitewashed, 
safe and clean mall of the mind. Sit back. Relax. Learn. 

The Digital Divide, 
Same as the Old Divide 

When Newt Gingrich came to power in the early 
1990s, he suggested that giving poor people laptops would 
be the key to empowerment. Liberals scoffed. When Bill 
Clinton and his entourage took over, Gingrich's disparaged 
"let them eat laptops" campaign morphed into the "digital 
divide." In other words, give 'em laptops, or at least wire 
their schools so the computers vdll work. As someone who 
has trained hundreds on computers, I cem attest that what 
students need is reading, writing, critical thinking and logic 
skills development. Without the skills to read manuals, 
troubleshoot technical problems, and use the computer in a 
productive manner, the wired classroom is doomed to fail- 
ure. 

Even more importantly, students need safe and secure 
home lives, a healthy environment and the peace of mind to 
nourish an active imagination. Without these prerequisites, 
computers are an absurdly expensive waste of time and 
resources. The rhetoric of the digital di\ide focuses on the pur- 
chase of hardware and software products, conveniently prof- 

* Freire, P. (1972) Pedagogy of the Oppressed, pp. 58-59 

32 




Digital Landfill 

Last year's model = this year's scrap 

itable for many multinational corporations while the real skills 
and resources that students need go begging. The digital divide 
is the same divide that has plagued industrial society from the 
beginning — the division of class. Without substantial structur- 
al change, no amount of computer products will tilt the bal- 
ance in favor of the under-represented and under-served. The 
digital divide is a marketing scheme by an industry that sells 
products by taking advantage of America's sympathy for the 
disadvantaged, and laughs all the way to the bank. 

And where is the opposition from the faculty? 
Unfortunately, many faculty members are blinded by a 
sense of "professionalism," a false consciousness that 
deceives them into thinking they are not "workers" in the 
true sense. Ironically this sense of professionalism does not 
come equipped with pay — prison guards, garbage collec- 
tors and other positions not requiring an advanced degree 
often have starting wages much higher than faculty mem- 
bers. But no matter, many professors believe they have 
more in common with their administrator /bosses than with 
their co-workers or the students they teach. As a temporary 
faculty member for many years, I have seen little sense of 
solidarity or action among them to connect with part-time, 
temporary adjunct professors. 

The sense of superiority that tenured professors feel is 
enhanced by the fact that relatively few are given tenure. 
Unfortunately, the occasional tenure track job that comes 
up is rarely awarded to someone with a different point of 
view or to someone who might shine a little brighter than 
the other incumbent faculty. Tenure-track hiring has 
become a process ruled by the law of the least common 
denominator. It often functions as a well-designed mecha- 
nism for mediocrity. 

PRDCESSED kUDPiLD E-DDI 




This does not bode well for coming battles with insur- 
gent right wingers who would love to destroy the tenure 
system and burden the university professorial workforce 
even more. As a graduate student at a large university I 
helped lobby state congressmen for fee relief and got to sit 
in on a number of sessions at the state capital. It was the 
Republican congressmen who were the most friendly, rel- 
ishing statistics that adjunct and temporary faculty not only 
taught the majority of the students, but had student ratings 
higher than most tenure track professors. For all of this, we 
earned much less than tenure track professors, usually with 
no benefits. We were seen as a potential pool of displace- 
ment labor, who could be used against the entrenched 
tenured. Many adjuncts are bitter at the lack of support 
shown by tenure track profs and would feel justified in 
replacing them. And with the university adopting the cor- 
porate model, tenure comes off looking more like an 
employment perk than the original basis of academic free- 
dom. Detractors of tenure like to think of it as a way to hold 
onto deadwood. However, most good professors I know 
feel it wouldn't be the uninspired or tired professors get- 
ting the boot, but the "troublemaking" iconoclasts, the ones 
who snuck in under the radar. If the university is merely a 
training ground for corporate workers, 
who needs academic freedom anyway? 

There are certainly many problems 
with the current state of higher education, 
many of which stem from lack of funding, a 
problem exacerbated by assaults on public 
school education. But any examination of 
the crisis needs to go beyond the surface, to 
a radical restructuring of higher education. 
The public university should be an 
autonomous public space for developing the 
ideas we require to move humanity for- 
ward. It should not be a mere training 
grounds to support the short-term market- 
ing considerations of corporate America. 
One of the saddest things I witness is bril- 
liant students getting siphoned off to build 
websites for some worthless commercial 



venture. 

Real education encourages independ- 
ent and critical thinking, and provides the 
intellectual skills necessary to negotiate 
through a lifetime of difficult choices. We 
should cultivate an education as we would 
cultivate a garden. An intellectual garden is 
diverse and well-tended, with crops that 
can nurture us through different seasons, 
early frosts, and dry spells. Today's educa- 
tion is a monoculture, planting a single crop 
at the behest of corporate America, leaving 
us at the mercy of its success or failure. 



Behind the facade of the new distance technologies lies a 
parched desert devoid of new ideas or creativity. Social 
progress requires a diverse, vibrant multiculture of ideas 
that only a truly public university can provide. 

The public university is worth fighting for. But efforts 
are needed on many different fronts. Faculty need to get 
flushed out of their ivory towers and recognize they Ccin play 
an important role in public life. It is common knowledge 
there is a strong undercurrent of anti-intellectualism in 
America, but too often faculty help to promote this by engag- 
ing in insular, arcane and just plain silly research and writing 
only relevant to a handful of other bored academics. 
University administrators reward faculty who publish in aca- 
demic journals read by no one, and are not encouraged to 
develop as public intellectuals and educators. Professors 
should reject this arcane role and work to situate intellectual 
debate within public life. The public university is naturally 
situated to be in the forefront of this endeavor. Students and 
faculty must work together to wrest control of this public 
resource fi'om career bureaucrats and corporate CEOs. 
Despite the efforts of those who would hurl the university 
into cyberspace, there is still an important role for our pub- 
lic university, bricks and mortar all . * 







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33 



The Disappeared of 
Silicon Valley 

(or, why I couldn't get that story) 



by Paulina Borsook 

It began innocently enough in early winter 1 999. 1 had 
been working on a book for three years, and wanted 
to take a break by doing something shorter and not so 
wholly excavated from my own grim brain. So I called 
Kerry Lauerman, then an editor at Mother Jones. 
Lauerman told me they had been kicking around the idea 
of doing the anti-free-agent-nation story, about the peo- 
ple for whom being way-new-kewl-entrepreneurial just 
hadn't worked out. I told him he had to let me pursue 
this: being contrarian, and fond of underbellies, I leapt at 
the chance to work on such a piece. 

I didn't anticipate huge problems: I had been knocking 
around high-tech since the early 1 980s, had written for the 
trades and for corporations and for Wired and had a habit of 
overreporting, which meant I always talked to 10 people 
where most folks would talk to one. All of which meant I 
felt confident that my mesh of connections would serve 
well enough to find the people who might have revelatory 
things to say. 

So I went to work, tracking down developers from 
game companies gone broke, founders of companies that 
died. I talked with bankruptcy lawyers and current employ- 
ees of Hewlett-Packard in contact with ex-employees of 
Hewlett-Packard. I even interviewed my boy-friend's 
father, a worker in Silicon Valley's satellite industry since the 
60s, figuring he'd know displaced older electronics industry 
workers. I was on the case daily and I was getting nowhere: 
no one wanted to talk to me. 

I found this extremely odd, for I had bought into the 
Silicon Valley myth that it's OK to fail and everyone jokes 
about it and moves on and we are not hidebound scaredycats 
like those old smokestack Dow Jones Industrials corporate 
drones Back East — so I couldn't figure out what was going 
on. I wasn't on assignment for the National Enquirer; I had a 
reputation for being fair, even if folks didn't always like what 
I had to say. The only other time I had run into such 
stonewalling was when I played classic investigative reporter 
for a Wired profile on Microsoft cofounder Paul Allen. In that 
case, many people had a stake in keeping their sugar daddy 
pacified and distracted, and not letting certain disquieting 
facts be known. But as I wasn't focusing on any one particu- 
lar person, and don't generally believe in conspiracy theo- 
ries, I was puzzled. 

Meanwhile, Lauerman left Mother Jones, so I approached 



the good and wise Scott Rosenberg of Salon, then the 
editor of the puWication's technology section, and 
asked him if he would be interested in the story I had 
come to think of as "the disappeared of Silicon 
Valley" — for if, as the long-established statistic stated, 
nine out of 10 startups fail, and many companies hmp 
along as zombies (that is, they never go pubhc but they 
never abjectly fail and they stumble on for years) or get 
folded into other companies at rates that in no way compen- 
sate founders and original employees for their labor and lost 
lives — where were these people? Rosenberg agreed to take 
over the assignment, so to speak, and I kept trying. 

I contacted Career Action Center (CAC) in Cupertino, 
Silicon Valley's main vocational-counseling resource. The 
counselor I talked to thought the story was a great idea, that 
it would make her clientele feel less alone, less prone to 
self- blame. She said she'd ask around to see if anyone was 
willing to talk. No one was. Same thing happened when I 
spoke with Alumnae Resources, the well-respected CAC 
San Francisco analog, and when I talked to a psychologist 
whose private practice was focused on helping people with 
career issues and reconstructing themselves after a business 
failure. Again, radio silence. 

Flailing about and getting nowhere, I ran into Heidi 
Roizen, a former software company founder/ CEO whom I 
had gotten to know as a source when she had been vice- 
president at Apple, and who had since gone on to be a 
world-class high-tech professional investor. When I 
explained what I was trying to do, she agreed that it was a 
story that needed to be told. Did she think any of her 
friends for whom the culture of startup and cash-out hadn't 
worked would be willing to talk to me? No, even though 
she did know folks who'd lost their houses or faced bank- 
ruptcy — but she did suggest 1 talk to one of her closest 
friends, a nice man named Tom Koznik, a consultant and 
business professor who taught entrepreneurship and mar- 
keting at the engineering school at Stanford. 

Koznik invited me to sit in on his classes — where stu- 
dents worked on marketing plans and VCs gave guest-lec- 
tures — and spent a lot of time talking with me and trying 
to set me up with folks from his vast network who might be 
willing to talk. 

Koznik had been a professor and a high-tech consultant 
for a long time, but even so, out of his huge network of con- 
nections, only two possible native -informants for my piece 
came forward, each currently one of his students. As back- 
ground, it's important to know that graduates of Stanford 
engineering have pretty much been guaranteed their choice 
of $ 1 00,00 per year jobs, plus options and sign-on bonuses. 
They are young, mostly mortgage- and offspring-free, and 
are at the time in their lives where when young adults are 
generally reserved the right to deviate and flounder. Job 
security just cannot realistically be a concern of theirs. 



34 



PRDCESSED LUDRLD 5- DO I 



But Silicon Valley, and Stanford in particular, has been a 
place where the specter of Yahoo founder /former Stanford 
graduate student Jerry Yang stalks the land; it's so obvious 
and it's so easy to make a billion dollars only the morally 
and intellectually defective can't make it. Never stated any- 
where explicitly, it's been a statement of high-tech faith 
that's everywhere implicit. 

One of the two kids who originally volunteered backed 
douTi, deciding he didn't want to talk to me about his expe- 
rience with a failed venture. I promised anonymity, stating 
the amazing true fact that I have never broken my word to 
a source and always honored confidentiality. But no, he 
wouldn't talk, word came through to me a third-party that 
he was just too worried that what he told me might get 
traced to him and jeopardize his future. This, from an under- 
graduate, living in the longest peace-time boom the U.S. has 
seen, in the economic hotspot of the globe. The other young 
man actually did let me interview him: a Ph.D. candidate, 
he left graduate school to self-fund his idea; it didn't work 
out; and he had to spend a year or so working fulltime to 
pay down his debt before returning to school. Nothing trag- 
ic here — but the strange part came when he told me that I 
was one of the first people he'd told about it all, his friends 
and family really hadn't known much about it. 
Failure is too inconceivably shameful in 
his world. 

As I was about to admit 
defeat on the piece, I was coin- 
cidentally given an assignment 
for San Francisco magazine to 
v^rite about the endless stream of 
high-tech business books that all 
seemed to follow the same format 
where the heroic entrepreneur 
overcomes all obstacles, asserts 
individualistic behavior, and is 
rewarded with scads of money and 
inflated self-concept. What I real- 
ized, and what I wrote about for 
their September 1 999 issue, is that 
these books were business-porn, 
as strict in their conventions as 
emotion-porn is vis a vis 
Harlequin Romances or action- 
porn is for Tom Clancy novels. 

And thus, I reasoned, if all 
people were being fed in their 
media diet can be represented by 
the business porn that is "Business 
2.0" and "Fast Company", and 
high-tech reportage in main- 
stream business mags has been just 
as breathless and celebratory, and 
newspaper business-reporting on 

PF^DCESSED kUDPiLD E ■ DOl 



high-tech equally gushy about what those rich crazy kids 
were up to next — how could anyone, for whom things had- 
n't worked out possibly feel anything but a deep personal 
shame that would require affirmations far beyond what 
Stuart Smalley could offer? 

What I realized is that if you are of the elect, you can fail 
as the Silicon Valley myth has it. But if you are not, it's dou- 
bly unbearable because all you've heard is the success stories. 
It's rather like going through the pain of divorce, but Uving in 
a culture where only happy marriages are ever described; or 
trying desperately and unsuccessfully to have kids when all 
about you all you hear is about large families. In fact, one of 
the people who did talk to me about her failed startup, 
shrugged off the experience as 'that's just life, it's like when a 
relationship fails." But when a relationship fails, all culture, 
friends, and family understands, sanctions your right to 
grieve and suffer, knows it will take time to heal, that you've 
undergone something wrenching and awful. But not so in 
Silicon Valley — if you've failed, you can't talk about it, it's no 
big deal, and it never happens anyway. Never mind that start- 
ups demand heart, soul, and Ufe — so if they crash, burn, or 
drive you away, what has happened to that heart, soul, life? 

There was a perverse timeliness to the conclusion I was 
coming to, for Po Bronson had just pub- 
lished his best-selling "Nudist on the 
Late Shift", true tales of winning 
in Silicon Valley. In that summer 
of 1 999, Bronson also wrote a New 




York Times magazine story, "Instant Company," which was a 
classic of the 'it's all so easy /we strike it rich to beat the band' 
genre. Bronson, whose prose is graceful, smart, and funny, 
probably didn't realize what his feature really said: that if you 
worked at a glam startup (such as Yahoo before it went pub- 
lic) or for a major Wall Street i-bank or previously for a VC 
or have a pedigree that includes an MBA or CS degree from 
one of the Silicon Valley designated-hitter institutions of high- 
er learning — then all is well. But reading his piece — where 
all the founders of the high-con- 
cept, if unimaginative, epinions 
(let's use collaborative filtering so 
that we can make money off other 
people doing the work /providing 
the content!) had just such elite 
pedigrees — was rather like reading 
C. Wright Mills' The Power Elite, 
updated for Internet Age. Of 
course these guys can raise money, 
never need flounder, are damage- 
proof. How different, really, was 
their fate from that of George W. 
Bush, who didn't really have the 
qualifications for Andover nor 
Harvard Business School, but got 
in cinyway because he had been 
anointed? 

When I finally gave up — or 
rather, realized the real story was 
a meta- story, about how and why 
the story 1 had wanted to do 
couldn't be written — was after a 
phone interview w^ith one of my 
long-time excellent sources 
whom I always keep anonymous. 
A high-end high-tech headhunter 
who had been of great help to me 
in times past, she sympathized 
with what I was trying to do but 
told me that someone from The 
Wall Street Journal had tried to do 
the same story a few years 
before — and that reporter hadn't 
gotten anywhere, either. 

Just as I had finally let go, 
someone finally did surface from 
all the networking I'd done who was willing to talk about his 
bruising startup experience. He was smart, self-aware, rue- 
ful — and married to a minister and displayed an overall 
level of psychological insight and emotional maturity that's 
very narrowly distributed in the general population — and is 
kazillion times more rare in high-tech. For in high-tech, 
introspection and attention to interpersonal dynamics are 
not fungible assets. In fact, they get in the way of being on 

36 



BY THE PYRAMID 

Driving homeward at dawn, 
I felt again overloaded 
by too much to do- 
too much to do— 
too-much-to-do-in-too-little-time. 

Then I thought 

of going at this hour 

to set chokers in the snow and dark 

above Granite Falls, 

lunch-bucket with one broken snap, 

rubber calk-boots two-sizes-too-big and more 

clownish 

with their patches of red or yellow or blue — 

and of walking toward my Hotel 

after Night Shift at Warehouse 4-A in San Jose 

tossing grapes that arced like pearls 

under streetlights, 

catching ones in my mouth 

with a crunch of teeth and squirt of Juice, 

biceps sore from throwing boxes— 

both those Jobs 14 years ago. 

You could be one 
of hundreds millions, I thought- 
bent in some field, 

repeating tasks in a line, 
poor as the earth you rend, 

tired unto deadening and soon 
tired unto death— 
instead of among the many 
hurrying here, 

worried about phone-calls and money, 
In the shadow of this Pyramid. 

by Don Paul 



on on all the time and selling all the time to investors and 
potential employees and maybe even customers and and 
and... 

My Deep Throat had worked on Wall Street and did 
have the requisite Stanford MBA. He told me the sad com- 
plex story of how his startup did well initially then got 
screwed over by bad management. He spoke of the damage 
to health and relationships and family life of going the start- 
up way. He reminded me that most startups are not high- 
tech and are not venture-funded. 
He emphasized that you can lose 
your savings, your salary, and your 
sanity. He went on about the loot- 
ing and lying that often character- 
ize startups and that the heroes of 
a new company — the unsung 
techies or managers who actually 
get the work done — often get 
screwed when the company folds 
or gets acquired at a discount or 
goes public then tanks. He had put 
his life savings into the company, 
and was still in deep personal debt 
when I talked to him (his parents 
had needed to help him out with 
his wedding celebration). 

I admired him for talking to 
me, but I couldn't figure out how 
to use one person to peg an entire 
piece. And professionally, I got 
overtaken by other projects and 
needed to be working on other 
things. As mercifully quirky as 
Salon is, I just couldn't see how a 
story about how a story about 
how I couldn't get the story, could 
interest them. And that was that. 

But the failed entrepreneur 
who had come through for me 
checked back in the late autumn 
of 1 999, wanting to know what I'd 
been able to do with his so-valu- 
able confession. I told him that a 
story about how I couldn't get 
that story would only matter to 
cultural-studies types and journal- 
ism professors; that the concepts of self-censorship and the 
importance of what's there but that you don't hear about 
were too abstract, and not what most people want to read. 
He was sorry that the piece wouldn't run. 

But the more I thought about it, as The Industry Standard 
was growing ever fatter and Time Inc. launched a new maga- 
zine solely devoted to the New New Economy, "E- 
Company", the more important it seemed that I did try to 

PRDCE5SED LUDPiLD E-DQl 



talk about what no one wanted to talk about. That the stigma 
of failure exists and is cruel in Silicon Valley, maybe more so 
because no one admits it's there. Folks may not have filed 
bankruptcy petitions but may have taken on an impossibly 
burdensome second mortgage; or have sacrificed their per- 
sonal life to no end; or had to move away because it didn't 
work out — these are the disappeared of Silicon Valley. 

What I thought was the validating, if bittersweet, coda 
to my failure came at the monthly dinner I attend from time 
to time in San Francisco peopled by an ever-changing cast 
of sweet smart nerds. There, I ran into a guy I knew from 
one of his earlier lives as a telecommunications policy 
wonk. He's since cycled through the public sector to acade- 
mia into think-tank land and is now into startupsville. As a 
consequence, he's now involved with Silicon Valley's 
Entrepreneur's Forum (self-help and mentoring for the 
startupiste on the go). When I mentioned to him about my 
unfinished business writing about the shame-ridden disap- 
peared of Silicon Valley, he nodded in recognition. 

"We've tried to get those guys to come talk to our 
group about how they've dealt with failure." 

"I know," I said, "They won't talk until they're back up 
on top." 

"No,", he explained, "they won't talk to us at all about 
their failures, even when they've succeeded once 1 

again." 

"Even the billionaires?" ^ 

"Even the billionaires." 



But the story didn't end quite then. This very same tale 
of media collusion and market-timing in post-Netscape IPO 
irrational exuberance was eventually commissioned for 
Brill's Content. But alas, it was killed as it was heading from 
fact-checking to galleys by its Bright Young Editor-in-Chief 
(newly arrived from Tina Brown mentorship) in June 2000, 
because the first stories had started appearing in the nation- 
al media about the shakeout fi-om the NASDAQ crash of 
March 2000. Fashion (and timing) is everything. 

Epilogue: Of course, in spring 2001, the stories of 
dotbombs and dotgones and vulture capitalists have 
replaced in the media the earlier techno-utopian free-mar- 
ket fairy stories. A website deadpool, www.fuckedcompa- 
ny.com, allows people to rant and rave about the specifics 
of the collapse of the Ponzi scheme high-tech economy of 
the roaring 90s, how paperthin and Potemkin- village it has 
been. But when I read those postings on PC's Happy Fun 
Slander Corner, I have the disquieting feeling of reading 
daily transcripts from the trials of French war criminals. 
It's been said that when the Nazis invaded France, 90 per- 
cent of the French collaborated. But by the time the Allies 
invaded Normandy, 90 percent of the French were with 
the Resistance. No one much spoke up or out when their 
friends and neighbors were hauled away and the 

? trains kept running East during the War, but 

everyone after the War proclaimed it 

was all such a pity, about the 

Disappeared. ? 




PRDCESSED LUDPiLD 2-001 



37 



Green Days in the Concrete Jungle 



by Ted White 

Nineteen years ago I moved to San Francisco to be 
a filmmciker. I went to film school, made some 
short artsy films and went on to make docu- 
mentaries about bicycling as a radical political act. 
Though I loved making them, over the years I realized 
they were not the kind you make a living from and it 
became clear that the "day-job" (sometimes a.k.a. "shit- 
job") would likely be a fixture in my life. 

I survived stints as pretzel vendor, espresso jerk, coat 
check guy, copy shop clerk and a handful of other odd gigs. 
Eventually, however, I found the ultimate artist's side-job: 
gardening. It allowed me to work in beautiful serenity 
sequestered in someone's backyard, away from the bullshit, 
the pretense, the traffic, the noise — in short, away fi-om 
people. It allowed my brain to stretch out, relax and sun- 
bathe. Since many of the tasks of the gardener are repeti- 
tive, I could get into a nice mindful /mindless groove and do 
a lot of creative 



thrive in San Francisco. Any and all plant life can give it a go 
here, from Banana Tree to Princess Flower, Agave to 
Redwood trees, fig to fern. 

One of the great ironies of gardening professionally is 
that you often work for those too busy to garden themselves 
or even enjoy their own garden. As you spend much of your 
day in the most scenic, tranquil places in the city while 
those you work for slog away, pushing paper and zinging e- 
mails. In doing so, they make the big money to pay you and 
the other service-providers: nannies, carpenters, house- 
cleaners, personal coaches. So that you can putter around, 
snip, clip, whistle, weed, and tidy their little corner of par- 
adise, your clients toil diligently downtown. 

There is a tendency to be cynical about your clients. 
Over the years you might witness them upgrading fi-om 
BMW to Lexus to LandRover and roll your eyes thinking: 
What the fuck? But actually, I've found that people who 
value gardens enough to pay someone to maintain theirs are 
connecting with something pretty deep. They may have 



When time begins to sound sexier than money, and green 
looks more vibrant than gold you know you're feeling good. 



positioned themselves askew from where their hearts He, 
prioritized being in an office in a highrise over a lavender 
bed as a place to spend most of their time. Still, they pos- 
sess a sense of nature's power and glory. Many clients over 
time become more and more devoted to their gardens. 
They learn about and begin to really understand their 



thinking while I 
worked. 

As a liveli- 
hood, gardening 

was rejuvenating, sensuous, and cured what ailed me — 
pointless unsatisfying work and people-centric attitudes 
towards our surroundings. Gardening showed me the other 
San Francisco, the natural one (or fairly natural anyway), a 
city of unexpected flora and fauna. This other San Francisco 
offered me a space to witness such sights as a huge barn owl 
napping in a Monterey 
Cypress above me, or a 
skunk popping out of a hole 
vinder someone's porch in 
broad daylight and then 
scuffling away. I found and 
rescued my dear cat Pepita, 
starving and trapped in the 
deluge of an automatic 
sprinkler system. I experi- 
enced green days in the con- 
crete jungle, an incredible 
diversity of life. Just as the 
city offers itself as a fertile 
spot for punks, queers, 
artists, freaks, Chinese, 
Guatemalans, Iranians and 
Anglos, it seems as if pretty 
much any green life form 
with a will to grow can 



38 




PPiDCESSED LUDPiLD 5 -DO I 



plants, witness their growth habits and idiosyncrasies. They 
become increasingly entranced by the amazing play of sun- 
light, rainfall and decomposition, and realize how wonder- 
fully simple it really all is. 

Only chefs and maybe plumbers get to work with as 
much organic material in a day as gardeners do. Gardeners 
enjoy a slightly ruffian exterior and get to wear sexy tough- 
lookin' clothes: boots, gloves, dirty jeans, raggedy shirts. 
Gardeners get down and dirty and end the day with leaves 
and dust in our hair. In these dot-com days there is genuine 
pride in not making your living with a keyboard and mouse. 
And don't forget, gardeners are armed. With our pruning 
shears strapped to our sides in leather holsters we're the 
gangsta floribunda. 

Gardening helps you feel tough and a touch bad-ass but 
also allows — even requires — gentleness. Gardening is about 
observing, tending to needs, stepping lightly, nurturing. 

People dream of leaving the city and "getting away from 
it all," because in the country — "it" seems bigger, deeper, 
more permanent, more satisfying. After a day in the moun- 
tains or at the side of a clear stream, it's hard to go back to 
the city. You keep thinking of the mountain or the stream, 
like it was a beautiful person who smiled invitingly at you 
and now you're wondering why the fuck you just walked 
away. That's why we need city gardens, to keep those yearn- 
ings from getting too unbearable. 

Maybe all this is a signal of a great turning. The garden, 
even a modest one offers a refuge away from techno-con- 
sumpto-think to just-sit-and-be. When time begins to 
sound sexier than money, and green looks more vibrant 
than gold you know you're feeling good. 

Besides the urban vs. rural tug the gardener is 
immersed in the great struggle of control vs. chaos. 
Obviously one of the ongoing tasks of the gardener is weed 
eradication. To the gardener, weeds are the "other," the 
enemy. They are the enterprising interlopers who threaten 
to steal the livelihoods of the established plants. They 
threaten the very idea of the domesticated garden and mock 
one's loyalty to it. Yet, as plants they are brilliant players, 
mad geniuses and rogue warriors. Weeds find a way to do 
their thing. They zero in on a gap in the grid, throw down a 
root and grow like hell. Weeds are graffiti in the garden 
landscape, nature's taggers. They're outrageous, impressive 
and won't behave. 

Gardeners are paid to maintain control. The paradox is 
that part of you wants to maintain order everywhere (clean 
pavement, swept driveways...), but you also find the innova- 
tive free-wheelin' weeds irresistible. Digging on your hands 
and knees, yanking or scraping, you start to ask yourself, 
what makes this particular plant a weed and some other not 
a weed? Strangely enough, people have imposed a caste sys- 
tem upon many plant species. Oxalis, Euphorbia, Thistle, all 
have "good" varieties and "bad" varieties. While you pay good 
money for some at the nursery your clients are paying you to 




rip out their evil cousins by the hundreds. It all becomes a lit- 
tle weird, and perplexingly hypocritical. 

Personally, when I spy weeds growing through the 
cracks in the sidewalk I have two reactions: first, "Wow! You 
go, little green thing, kick ass!" The other, frighteningly 
knee-jerk, is: "Shit! Look at this chaos, what are these 
scruffy, "homeless" plants doing loitering here? There goes 
the neighborhood!" As a gardener, one is supposed to keep 
order. Nevertheless, we cheer the wild individual achieve- 
ments within the plant world. 

On the best days, gardening barely seems like a "job." 
In many ways it is the antithesis of what modernity is about. 
Since I don't use a mower, blower or other motorized stuff, 
for me it's a slow choreography of quiet handwork, which 
still requires age-old tools. Rake, shears, shovel, broom: 
tools which won't soon become obsolete. The yields of gar- 
dening are satisfying yet often intangible. You can help the 
plants, but can't force them to perform to your liking. Aside 
from, perhaps, flowers or fruits, there is no bottom line. 
The point of a garden is simple — to create room for natu- 
ral beauty and calmness. While so many current occupa- 
tions seem to be about creating complexity and drumming 
up urgency, gardening gifts us with patience, non-immedi- 
ate gratification and most importantly, a sense of wonder. 



PROCESSED LUDRLD E-DOl 



39 



Tremble 

by James Brook 



Capital and catastrophe in the life of the city . . . 

glimmer of the young woman's nose ring 
five short trees in dead-end square 
hospital breeze patch of sun 
no one stops on the way to church or store 

8/25/00 

the whole sad deal of culture 
she watches hawks like a hawk 
fog spills into the valley below 
reverie a spin 

8/25/00 

there was a dream of text to live in 
there was a dream of text to un write 
with new distribution of sense to things 
it was meant to be the worst case 

8/25/00 

palm strikes flat against glass 
of first car to run the light 
vertigo the deserted finance 
a woman in tears 

8/27/00 

sports section business page christ 
on the streetcar a wisp of a hymn 
passing the ballpark 
where logos and homeless cohabit 

8/29/00 

Filipina black glasses black vest from Jalisco 
sings "una bella ragazza, chi me piace piu" 
sings over the stinking gasoline leaf-blower 
sings over "Is this China? Africa? Man, America was 
white!" 

9/1/00 



message chasing message 
coin stacked on coin 
am so tired 
I dream of fatigue 

9/21/00 

you open their catalog of attractions 
to suspension bridge page 2 1 
"je veux I want je veux I want . . . 
my parents are from Auschwitz" 

10/5/00 

celestial versions tell it on the phone 
here's sweet gasoline on a hot day 
toasting our Chirico sighthnes 
my giants converse mine tease mortals 

10/5/00 

hard labor alerts security 
to be young 

and dance beneath tropic palms 
to mimic mimic's whole curve 

10/5/00 

now it forgets more science 
erodes a diagram on the collage principle 
as rental boats cavort in the bay of eviction 
nomads circulate before windowless towers 

10/15/00 

mindless in his repertoire 
he knocks her hot coffee spilling 
"excuse me for living fucking bitch" 
submerges into headphones 

10/21/00 

in the ranks of the coveted 
well-coiffed idols are taken only by force 
slaves at work and slaves at play big truck 
exhibited navel the accelerated bitter rich 

10/24/00 



40 



PRDCESSEDkUDnLDE.ODl 



smile is magic to property 
construction is magnet to garden 
handshake builds the house 
in disorder and wind and tears 

11/5/00 

the chartered creek flows 
under the old mission walls 
school children mustered 
in single file on forgotten graves 

11/5/00 

that natural feeling on the hillside 
near vertical staircase to vista 
otra palabra el gringo bags en la colina 
as prop for the re-gaze of production 

11/6/00 

where we stand is dusty constructivism 
yellow tape hard hat container 
cute goddesses of commerce 
address us 

11/13/00 

disorder in the wind a short course 
in point and shoot a kind of splotch 
and the grinding action of coding wheels 
blinking mammal in blue -white flash 

11/16/00 

hollow cinema orbits of floating trash 
a solemn child with three umbrellas 
a bodyguard a surround of taxpayers 
each one each ghost caption typo need 

11/25/00 



two young women in black suits a man the same 

in the empty park bayview postcard row Victorians 

equal new in the world equidistant modest 

turn away to remote conversations on the black phones 

12/1/00 




yellow yellow ye 
How yellow 
yellow back-hoe 
yellow yellow ye 



12/6/00 



squad car sphinx crossroads down and cry 
apparent rotation of the red lights 
doppler effect sings the urgent appeal 
fall down and cry there in the panic the city 



12/12/00 

tall 
crane 
in 
mid 

12/31/00 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDl 



41 



TALE OF TOIL 



My Life in the Search Engine 



by Netizen X 

We all came to the Internet because it was 
cool. Like moths to a bug lamp we swarmed 
around the exciting new technology, which 
allowed any average schmuck to get up and say his tiling 
online. All you had to learn was some basic HTML and 
get a few pictures up there and then you could rant about 
anything you wanted to go off on. It was a level playing 
field and an open forum. 

I moved to San Francisco to find out what multimedia 
was and get into it. Lots of fresh young college grads like me 
were learning some software and making a living on the 
Internet. It was emergent — it was uncharted territory and 
big corporations that didn't know exactly what was going on 
were throwing money at young people in the Bay Area to 
"create their online presence" and forge new territory in a 
new medium they did not yet understand. We were only 
happy to take their money. 

First, I worked as a reviewer for a company called 
Netguide that aimed to be TV Guide of the Internet. They 
sent us out — brave collegians — to review hundreds of 
thousands of Web sites for their comprehensive online 
directory. They appeared to want to catalogue the entire 
Internet, because they had us reviewing entirely trivial 
sites, like the home pages of Pakistani grad students who 
had posted pictures of their cats. The World Wide Web 
seemed like a small place back then... entirely categoriz- 
able. We clattered away on the night shift, turning in review 
after review of sites great and small. They paid us well (for 
writers) and periodically threw open-bar parties where 
everybody got shitfaced. It was a good job for the slacker 
mentality, leaving plenty of room for games of Duke 
Nukem. 

But it could not last. Eventually, the parent company in 
New York grew weary of shelling out cash on a company 
that showed no signs of profitability in the near future. They 
axed us in mass, but my friend Stuart and I just laughed. 
This gravy train had pulled into the station. What's funny is 
that, if the company had just stayed the course, they would 
have been miles ahead of all the subsequent companies try- 
ing to be the welcome mat to the Internet. The term du 
jour was "portal." All companies wanted to be the first stop 
on the Internet. All companies wanted to be Yahoo! 
Instead, they bailed and simply threw away their wads of 
venture capital. But who really cares anyway? 

I went to work for CNET They told me I was working 
on a top-secret project that would shake the foundation of 
the Internet with its originality. It would be the portal of 

42 



portals. All people would turn to it for guidance on the 
World Wide Web. They gave the project the code name 
"Gunsmoke" and they made us swear that we would not dis- 
cuss it with friends or family. Eventually the project would 
be knighted "Snap!" to give it the same exclamatory imme- 
diacy of Yahoo!, I suppose. They implied that we would all 
have nice tasty slices of the pie for our extra time and ener- 
gy. They cajoled us into working weekends and holidays, 
extolling the virtues of sacrifice and subtly threatening our 
job security for lack of enthusiasm. 

It was the one time in my entire tour of the industry 
that employees discussed forming a union. One friend of 
mine, who, hke so many of us, had hauled over from 
Netguide, called an impromptu meeting of producers to 
discuss the veiled threats of management. There was the 
snap ! of discontent in the air — a collective feeling of disgust 
at the scare tactics of management forces. The time had 
come to put a foot down and declare that there is at least 
some bullshit that won't fly. 

But, like so many worker kvetch-ins, it blew over. The 
employees at the meeting decided not to press the issue and 
the ardent sense of injustice fizzled. After it got wind of the 
meeting, management successfully completed a program of 
divide-and-conquer that eventually ran troublesome ele- 
ments out of the company, to be replaced by those who 
would dance to their tune. They introduced some new ben- 
efits, like back massages, to caress that nagging feeling of 
exploitation away. Eventually, it was only the yes-men that 
remained. 

I left the company on no particular terms with anyone. 
I had successfully made myself invisible in the office, coast- 
ing on my blind acceptance of mediocrity and voicing no 
adverse opinions. Eventually, my self-loathing and complete 
disregard for the project at hand forced me to quit, even 
though I had no other job to fall back on. At that point, I 
was numb to my desires, because they had no relation to 
what I did for a living. I had become a Dilbert. 

In my final week in the company, they put up one of 
those scrolling LED displays to flash information down on 
us. The wiseass who installed it posted comical messages on 
it, hke "Get back to work, slaves!" It was funny because, at 
that point, it simply acknowledged the actual situation. A 
rare bit of office honesty. 

After a brief stint of trying to do my own thing, I re- 
entered the Internet corporate world through the doors of 
LookSmart.This time I wore the hat of HTML coder, but, fac- 
tually, I was little more than a glorified temp, commissioned to 
the most repetitive and mindless tasks. I justified it to myself, 
saying I needed the experience, eyeing the options, and taking 

PRDCE55ED kUDRLD E-DDl 



solace in the steady paycheck. The work was monotonous, to 
say the least, but the atmosphere was not overly oppressive. In 
the beginning... 

After a few months, we were moved to a Soma build- 
ing that had recently been converted from a sweat shop. 
Employees made jokes about how it had just become a dif- 
ferent kind of sweat shop, but — all jokes aside — it was not 
pleasant. There was no air conditioning during the summer 
months and the whirring fans could do little more than stir 
hot air around. In order to get any ventilation, we had to 
keep the windows open on a construction site where a 
pneumatic pile driver would ceaselessly clang through the 
day. I recall one day in particular when a pipe in the middle 
of the room suddenly began hissing violently and half the 
office jumped out of their chairs and made for the door. 

It is the sacrifice that a start-up 
expects of you. Employees have to suck it 
in for the good of the company and give 
their all and not complain about unreason- 
able working conditions because the big 
payoff is around the bend. There's no room 
for slackers or complainers here, only self- 
starter problem solvers. That was all well 
and good, except that LookSmart had 
been around for four years. I also hasten to 
point out that the offices of marketing and 
advertising were pleasant and cool. 

I coded away through the year, keep- 
ing out of office politics and waiting for 
the ballyhooed Initial Public Offering. 
When the company went public, the stock 
price floated nicely and everyone let out a 
huzzah of success. Unfortunately, when 
the stock price was nice and high, many of 
us could not act on it because our options 
had not yet vested; by the time they had, 
the stock had dropped to around half its 
value and by the time the imposed holding 
period was over, it was already headed 
down the crapper. Today, the stock price 
hangs out at around $2, which is less than 
what I paid for it. Many people suffered 
the same fate, in addition to facing severe 
tax liabilities for exercising their options 
when the price was high. The giddy intox- 
ication of the IPO faded away into the 
sober reality of the Internet stock-market 
plummet. 

After the IPO, LookSmart moved to 
shiny new offices on 2nd Street. We were 
moved to lovely new half-cubes in a con- 
verted SOMA warehouse and there was 
plenty of hot cocoa in the concession 
room . No longer did we hear the incessant 

PRDEESSED LUDRLD E ■ DOl 



banging of the pile driver — just the occasional crowd roar 
from the newly renovated Pac Bell park. Now that it was a 
public company, LookSmart had to straighten its proverbial 
tie and institute certain corporate features to make sure it 
was reaching maximum productivity. All of sudden, there 
seemed to be four meetings a day about monetizing every 
page, maximizing dollar amounts on every ad-banner click- 
thru, and massaging the design needs of our many corpo- 
rate partners. The business department was cutting affiliate 
deals and dumping work on the production team that we 
really couldn't handle. With each new step toward produc- 
tivity, I felt more and more uncomfortable with my work- 
ing environment. I felt shaggy and unkempt and increasing- 
ly irrelevant. I found myself in more and more meetings 
where I appeared to have absolutely no idea what was going 




on and could not bring myself to find out. I was doing the 
bare minimum to stay employed and had long since lost 
interest in creating the Internet's best Web portal. I could 
really give a rat's ass. Meanwhile, they put up a sign at the 
entry hall to the building with the company logo, peppered 
with inspirational descriptors that had presumably popped 
out of the mouths of satisfied LookSmartians. "Fun!" 
"Focused!" "Savvy!", etc. It was supposed to put a little 
spring in your step on the way to the grind, but I took it 
more as a sign that I needed to be leaving the company. 

As I worked up the gumption to quit, my resolve solid- 
ified when the company instituted a "360 degrees" peer 
review system — a Byzantine process whereby colleagues 
give reviews of each other's performance. Assuredly, this is 
a state-of-the-art system for maximizing employee efficien- 






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cy, but it struck me as more of a way to instill fear by under- 
scoring that any of your compatriots may be monitoring 
your performance — and your bad attitude or sloppy per- 
formance could come up in your next review. To my mind, 
it was a new twist on the panopticon. . . a way of isolating 
each individual and making any employee suspicious of his 
neighbor. I went to the little workshop they gave on how to 
give constructive feedback, laughed to myself, and gave 
notice that week. 

I went on to another start-up that is now moribund and 
bears no mention. It was, in fact, a good job, insofar as I 
worked only part-time and nobody seemed to care that I 
didn't really give a shit. I was in the first round of layoffs, 
which was really no surprise, considering my status and 
attitude. Part-timers and contractors usually get the axe 

first. However, the market is 
now sputtering and there is 
very little work to be had. A 
year ago I could have 
bounced into my next job 
with a couple of well-placed 
e-mails. Instead, I've been 
out of work for two months 
now and nothing's on the 
horizon. 

But there is very little 
sympathy for the belly-aching 
Dot Bomb casualties, and 
why should there be? The 
Internet workers, originally 
so hip and groovy, came to be 
seen as money-grubbing car- 
petbaggers with oversized 
cars and little imagination. 
They bought up artist spaces, 
co-ops and cafes and turned 
them into offices. They ran 
the rents up sky high and ran 
the poor people out of town. 
If I wasn't an SUV-driving 
yuppie, I was still digging for 
gold along with everybody 
else and came up with a fist- 
ful of empty promises. I got 
screwed, but can I ask you to 
cry for me? Does anybody 
want to hear my rendition of 
the "Dot Bomb Blues"? If I 
wasn't part of the solution, 
was I part of the problem? 

You can bring it up at my 
next peer review ... T 



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44 



11 BE CtNTIN«D^_ 

continued on page 60 



PPiDCESSED kUDRLD E-ODl 



Bus 



fiction by Marina Lazzara 

The dew is rather warm considering the fog, I could find 
words to describe it, but instead I caress the flies on my eye- 
hds and spread the morning newspaper across the bus station 
floor. I make the flies advance with caution, take chance to 
spare me their flights. The flapping is my stomach. I'm hun- 
gry. The joy, their back legs. It's a gamble that you're gonna 
reach a place that somehow renews you, and there's an after- 
math that forces that feeling. Being or becoming. Coming or 
going. A knowledge. A trendy technology. Something exotic 
like a masquerade or trees. 

When leaving the city, even in the grounding of the city, the 
first person to leave has to touch her forehead with her left 
thumb and decrease her rage by a few punches. Road trip 
games. Time tests. Final and wandering sidewalks like luck. . . 
It can be noon in the morning yet incredibly vinyl in the way 
that I stretch it on and over me. Fitted, sly and imaginable 
although so real the shape of everything, I expose myself to a 
dream at the same time the sky lightens up. It's five-fifteen, 
no seventeen in the morning, and I'm not ready to rise. I'm 
traveling up an escalator to a bus going North. 

Redwoods. 

A quick silver smell of tar comes up from the floor ventila- 
tion, and I just inhale and believe it's my nature. 

I expect this ride to give me everything. The hump-top 
rooftops, the dirty deeds of all the fucked forces of the 
pigeons who at first never even belonged here. The feel of the 
urban air stoning me with the openness of all that outside 
getting ready for all those trees, trees- Almost like watching 
fire horizontally and melting into the building next to it and 
deciding to lean into something but not quite sure yet what 
that something is. But I expect something. 

While I wait I practice fovmtains by first practicing my spit 
and then making it look as though that spit is a fountain with- 
out giving away the fact that even the fountain isn't the same 
kind of fountain that's made by spitting, or a reason, that is, 
for anyone around me to believe I know anything at all about 
fountains. This is relatively easy to do. 

Please pass time back down now please, will ya? 



PFDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDl 



In this bus station, people wander past windows, check 
themselves out, hold luggage. There's a window display for 
those who sneak a peek. Assuming we all rely on our periph- 
eral vision in moments of extreme confusion, an illusion of 
being part of a bigger picture, like glass reflecting from one 
side of the street to the other, a theater town, a reflection of 
myself folds into reflections that fold, of course, into other 
reflections. A work day for these drivers. 

Yet a window scene for seasonal change is only a display that 
squares off dull psychology. No matter how often anyone 
walks past the bus station's window, they still seem old-fash- 
ioned, dull, a swollen look of boredom in their eyes. Even 
gadgets don't make anyone seem more modern, more pro- 
gressed, more user friendly. Even the slick phones, briefcas- 
es, laptops, pagers. None of these things make anyone more 
accessible. Water trickles down glass. Window sweeps. 
Obscene, old victories snooze in the station's boughs. The 
hunter knows the deer has enough blood in its brain to dye 
its own hide after dying. There are no traces of wounds or 
pranced tracks here. 

Ah. On board. Incurable, the way the seat spreads down the 
back. There's junky breath in the rear lighting the mildew of 
the transient porta-pottie, and the jet blue ammonia smell 
behind our ears is bigger than my fountain, a year-long spout 
in the rain. The world is becoming 3-D anyway so why both- 
er with how incredibly perfect one can spit their water from 
one side of the bus to the other Uke a fountain. But I'm gonna 
practice this and time the streetlights to my spits, yet noth- 
ing's gonna make the lights turn any faster, or any greener for 
that matter except a woman's joke about the bus driver and 
his hat, on fire like it often almost is whenever he shifts at the 
fuller intersections. When the cars pass I imagine burnt sien- 
na rain drifting over the outside window of my room, so full 
of light when the dark hits the wetness of the glass like shapes 
& phrases. 

Dim grey-green glow coming up from the bottom right side 
of my seat. 

I begin to master the fountain on board by not using my 
hands to help push the water from the back of my neck. Only 
by tilting back my neck could I perform the needed arch after 
drinking the water down, leaving half of it deep but not past 
my Adam's Apple. It has to do with the tongue extending the 
same motion outward as my neck would want to do if it was 
longer. My hands, for once, were idle at my sides and to keep 
me from losing control, I'd often set them in my pockets, safe 
there from wanting to help as always in some tightly mater- 
nal manne. "You really should give yourself a break from that 

45 



phone, " I say passing the Man on 
my way to the bathroom. "I read 
they're finding cysts the shape of 
cell phones in the ears of heavy 
users." "Really?" he says dialing. 
"Don't vou have to practice spit- 
ting or something?" "Well," I say 
as I walk on. "I do have to pee. 
That's like spitting." 

Child with a Play Station, all night 
long. Child with a Play Station, 
keeps playin' that song. Keeps 
playin' that song. Isn't there an old 
saying about how it takes an entire 
corporation to raise one child? Or 
is that tribe? An entire corpora- 
tion to raise one tribe? 

It has to do with timing. A point 

at which things begin to cUck. I 

gotta time my transport down the hill and see now as this 

moment of riding. How important is having anything if you 

begin to believe it makes you live better? 

Today was a dry day. A man and a muzzled dog came on after 
the bus driyer took a vote so they could come aboard. As long 
as he kept the muzzle on the dog was the basic idea. The man 
agreed the dog didn't know how to bark. The dog, he said, was 
deaf and that was why he stomps his right foot twice on the 
ground when he wants his attention. We thought that was 
something we'd keep an eye on. How loud exactly, we asked, 
is the stomp? (Was it louder than a phone ring. A Play Station? 
Was it louder than the laptop booting up?) The man said he was 
never one to wait and bargain. He would take his chance on a 
more compassionate busload. We had to take his word that the 
stomp wasn't very loud or tell him to leave right then. And we 
did. They did. He left right there and then. The dog never made 
it up the steps. The bus driver waited anxiously near their lug- 
gage with the open luggage door. We gave him the signal. The 
man and his dog walked away. As he went back to the driver, 
he forgot to shut the luggage door. I noticed it right away. 
Didn't say a word. I wanted to see some baggage fly. 

The message comes and it's simple. He just says Fuck and I pull 
my ankles in from the aisle to get out of the way. He's walking 
to the bathroom pushing a pointed stick into his palm. The 
draft down my legs is incredibly reminiscent of the bus station 
itself. It's another fixture but the same light and we keep rolUng 
along. The man with the voice behind me tires earlier tonight. 
The battery dying, he talks louder with each syllable and for a 

46 




moment, looking through his window, he is alone. But I hear 
his knees knocking on my seat. It's not quite dark so I don't 
think it's time to sleep. Nothing behind my eyes treats me to 
visions, and so at this point in the trip my ideas are tiny sonnets 
to the ceiling, dusty lime-green and peeling orange paint 
exposed in the corners near the window seams. 

Where cell phone conversations are background noise, my 
yawn is attention. Deep in the heart of the motor, a sound 
grows consistent. The mousey sly of the engine alarms itself 
only at the sight of future street lights, but in the meantime, 
while moving close out of dark morning, it can be quieter 
than its day fight noise. But I'm overcome by closure, or lack 
of stretch-space and natural noise so that suddenly without 
warning, my mouth opens out a yawn that turns every head 
in front of me to look for me, the sounder of that sound, and 
everyone behind me to stretch their necks upward for me, 
the face of that sounder, and with slight shakes of their heads, 
my fellow passengers drop, tired and contagiously disgusted, 
to their neck tilted, head-dropped, sleepy postures. 

Meanwhile, I don't allow the man behind me to put his feet 
too far up my ass as I sit there in front of him pretending to 
sleep, pretending to push sleep weight back in his direction. 
It's okay really, he's just being superstitious. If his phone 
rings, his legs stay stretched to accommodate his pocket size. 
He tells his next caller about his fashion future vision. How 
fashion will be designed to hold personal communication 
devices, cell phones, palm pals, slips of velcro, a dot com uni- 
form. I think how that's already being done when he says, 

PRDCESSED LUDRLEI E-DDl 



"Oh, it's already being done?" In the illusion of the conversa- 
tion, he really could be talking to me. By the time he hangs 
up, I know so much about him: his dislike for seafood, his 
lack of social life, his mother's maiden name, his itinerary of 
meetings for the upcoming week. 

Brakes like a qucike rumble and shake. A sense of insecurity 
flows through me. I don't have enough to do. 

In a world of beeps and buttons, fountains are unique, utter- 
ly ultimate. 

I start moving around to empty seats. A change of perspec- 
tive is always good for the depressed. Change inspires 
growth. Grov^^ provides some bloom. When I find someone 
who'll talk to me, the first question is often the same: What 
do you do? Now does this mean what do I do each day, what 
do I do for a living, what are my future goals, how do I spend 
my time? I automatically answer this question at first writh 
"Write poetry". There's often a giggle, a browraised smile, 
and a further explanation of "No, really, I mean for money?" 
Gradually, as the question stays the same, I begin to answer 
with "I breathe." 

At one point, I fantasize about stealing his phone. This comes 
to me after we pass through a small town with a bank that dis- 
plays a sign reading "Celebrate Convenience." Inside this bank 
is also a dry cleaners, a post office and a coffee shop. The 
phone man likes this. Thinks it makes the world a better place. 

We begin to reach my destination. It feels almost impossible 
that I'll feel differently once I smell that smell, that open 
ended, somehow hollowy freshness that comes when fewer 
buildings surround you. A smell reminiscent of mornings 
before all the years of nicotine and cars. A smell that works 
the mind as much as the body. But still in this bus are the bus 
smells. The false air, the mingling body odors, the smells of 
time passing while space sections out as a long vibrating line 
the windows frame. I'm on the last lap like the horse races, a 
moment that rushes for some but for me, I would rather the 
horse and his rider be taken over by gravity and fall in that last 
turn while other horses jump spontaneously, or trip like 
drunk cross-country skiers whose large leggings get snagged 
up with each other. That last lap when the four muscled knees 
of the horses seem to vibrate in midair. One horse falls to the 
side but never to the ground. In the illusion through dust, the 
bystanders see the running horse ride the air directly above 
the tracks, halfway on its side, when the left ear flaps down 
and sweeps the land. The precision of ride the expert jockeys 
take and the rugged trained strength of the horse's body, add 
in the power of motion and speed, spice it with time, and 

PROCESSED LUDPiLE] E.ODl 



rarely do they fall. Gravity is overcome. The audience faints 
upward and almost silences. Smells are not a gamble. It is 
what you smell. Time is a gamble. It never smells. 

At this point, I'm bored. That last lap, as I've said, bores me. 
The phone man becomes more obnoxious with my boredom, 
or else is catching up before he departs. The calls persist, 
speed up, take more time to complete. This man can't be 
alone with his thoughts, invades my thinking. That phone will 
be mine to burn, I declare to myself. That phone will be mine. 

I practice my fountain a few times arching over my extended 
legs and aim for the now empty seats across the aisle. This is 
my last chance to practice so I change my direction and cal- 
culate how to distract him. I succeed in annoying him, spray 
his laptop cover with my work, feel moments of boredom 
bliss, watch him turn off the phone in frustration and position 
his body on the seat to ward off my flowing charms. My foun- 
tains spray and flame like burning water fires and the bus- 
load, as if watching a yawn, focus on our display. He is wet 
and insane with my habit but eventually I run out of water. 
He laughs so hard he unknowingly drops his phone at my 
feet. I kick it toward me, reach down to pick up something I 
never dropped. Shove it into my bag. 

The bus driver's monotonous voice informs us we've reached 
there. Someplace different at least than where we were. 
Phone man grabs his briefcase from above his head, leaves the 
bus in laughter. 

I take my bag from beneath the bus, grateful that it never flew 
out miles back. Walking toward the lushness of green, the 
path of my sanity, I stop to gather my thoughts and view the 
treetop arches in their place. 

Like the feel of the feet after roller skating for hours, the hum 
of his voice stays with my ears. The afterthought of a beehive 
alive in my brain. His thoughts stay with me so I try forcing 
it out by singing out loud when from my bag a ring echoes, a 
dysfunctional bird out of its nature here. I answer and it's him 
talking on, but this time directly to me. "Give back the...." 
and I'm spooked, spooked by the continuation of our spaces 
still colliding, and like a bad horror flick I again like a child 
hide my ears in the heat of my palms and slam the phone 
receiver back into its body. This time there is no strategy, no 
bets to make or gambles to digest. I just dig a hole next to a 
Sequoia where looking up brings rays of dark branches into 
thin snowflake shapes on the light blue sky. I dig and the ring- 
ing rings. I bury it and there is still ringing. I walk into the 
green deepness, get small while the trees stretch up. I am tiny 
when the ringing finally stops. • 

47 



San Francisco's Space Wars 



by Tom Wetzel 

CC'W~'''^ ot-coms' demise could alleviate rent problems" 



D 



I read a recent Examiner headline, more promise 
than reahty. In the Mission District, north of the 
outdoor narcotics zone along 1 6th Street, dozens of house- 
holds received rent increases of 10 to 60 percent in March. 
These residents live in a group of buildings built after 1979, 
which exempts them from rent control. One tenant, Raul 
Garcia, a janitor, had his rent jacked from $900 to $1 ,200 a 
month. In response, the residents have begun to organize a 
tenants union.' 

The Mission District has been ground zero in a class 
war as tenants resist the capitalist forces that are squeezing 
the working class out of the city. Since 1 990 the proportion 
of employed residents who are not professionals or man- 
agers has declined by about 8 percent. 

Dot'Com Invasion 

Five years ago American capitalism discovered the Web. 
Sources of capital turned the spigots full on for all sorts of 
schemes to exploit the Internet. As NASDAQ stock prices 
lost all touch with reality venture cap- 
italists poured funds into dot-com 
startups betting on eventual IPOs or 
buyouts by larger firms. Tech startups 
in the city received $1.6 billion during 
just one quarter last year.^ 

As dot-com CEOs scurried to find 
space for their newly crafted ventures, 
the office market tightened and rents 
for Class A office space shot up from 
$28 per square foot in 1996 to $77 in 
2000, surpassing office rents in 
Manhattan.' DowntowTi evenings re- 
verberated to the sound of pilings 
being driven for new office buildings. 
The Mayor's Planning Commission 
just couldn't say "No" to more office 
space. Where would the people work- 
ing in these buildings live? The Mayor 
and Board of Supervisors (the city 
council) weren't losing any sleep wor- 
rying about that. 

Multi -media and Internet-related businesses had growTi 
virtually overnight to become the city's second-largest 
industry, employing 47,000 people by last fall. 

The high-tech sector's appetite for space was seemingly 
insatiable, enticing landlords to dump low-rent uses. Dance 
studios or social service agencies aren't profit centers. As the 
dot-com boom threatened to destroy the city's artistic sub- 

PBDCE55ED kUDRLD E-DDl 




cultures and drive nonprofits out of existence, the ensuing 
struggle spawned a wide range of protests, from illegal occu- 
pations to a "Million Band March" of evicted musicians. 

The city has experienced two space wars over the past 
year — a fight over living space — and a fight over "commercial" 
space. A common theme that linked these two was the threat 
that displacement poses to the city's social and cultural diversity. 

Who Can Afford to Live Here? 

Even before the fin de siecle dot-com boom, high-tech 
growth in Silicon Valley was adding to stress on the city's 
housing supply as increasing numbers of tech workers drove 
the freeways or rode commuter trains from the city to jobs 
in suburban office parks. Meanwhile, the city's housing sup- 
ply had been inching upward at the tepid rate of about 1 , 300 
new units per year for the past two decades.* The sudden 
surge of 1 30,000 new jobs during the last five yecirs twisted 
a tight housing market into a savage bidding war for living 
space. From 1999 to 2000 the average rent for a vacant one- 
bedroom apartment rose 29 percent.' 

A recent RentTech survey fovmd that rent for a vacant 
one-bedroom apartment averaged 
$1,888. This is more than the entire 
take -home pay of a union janitor making 
$13 an hour. Food service workers in 
the city who average $9.50 an hour wall 
be hard-pressed to find a place they can 
pay for. Twentysomethings who grew up 
in the city are often forced to five at 
home wath their parents. 

Of course, many tenants pay much 
less than the current market rate due to 
rent control. The median rent in the city 
in 1999 was $860, meaining that many 
people face the prospect of their rent w 
doubling if they have to move for any ^ 
reason. Buying isn't an option either. At ^J 
the end of last year the median price of .| 
condos and houses in the city was o 
$475,000. In five years residential real o 
estate prices have inflated 77.2 per- lE 
cent,'' and only about one out ten house- J? 
holds can afford to buy a house. 

The majority of people who are 
evicted are simply forced to leave San Francisco. 

The Mission's Working Class Roots 

The Mission District has been a working class area for 
a long time. Union organizing was a strong presence in the 
Mission in the early 20th century. Two notorious Mission 
District labor activists in the '10s were ex- Wobbly Tom 

49 



Moonev and anarchist Warren Billings. In 1916 Mooney 
was trying to unionize the workers of the Market Street 
Railway streetcar system when he and Billings were framed 
for a bombing they didn't do. 

In 1914 the city's unions built their headquarters, the 
AFL Labor Temple, at 16th and Capp Streets, which became 
the center of strategizing and organizing during the city's 
historic 1934 general strike. This was merely the most dra- 
matic symptom of a heightened activism and solidarity 
among workers in San Francisco in that decade. The main 
center of this working class strength was among the long- 
shore, shipyard and maritime workers — the heart of the 
city's economy in the '30s and '40s. 

The northeast Mission is the neighborhood's historic 
industrial district, which developed around the city's origi- 
nal railroad link to San Jose, which encouraged factories, 
breweries and warehouses to locate nearby. The dense 
Mission neighborhood that grew up adjacent to the work 
sites provided a pool of workers for these industries. The 
industrial district thus helped to reinforce the Mission's 
working class character. 

Many of the larger plants had closed during the ' 70s and 
'80s. Best Foods moved its mayonnaise operation to 
Guatemala in 1990, adding to the myth of the city's industri- 
al zones as an abandoned wasteland of boarded up warehous- 
es. In the late '90s the developers and their allies exploited 
this myth to gain city approval to cannibaHze the industrial 
land for luxury loft and dot-com office development. 

In reality, blue-collar production, distribution and 
repair industries had not declined in San Francisco during 
the decades of so-called de -industrialization. The propor- 
tion of manufacturing jobs remained constant in the city 
from 1970 to 1990 at nine percent of total jobs. While some 
larger operations did close, many smaller firms replaced 
them (e.g. Timbuk2, which makes custom courier bags for 
bike messengers) . Auto repair and manufacturing have been 



a source of blue-collar jobs for Mission District residents — 
1 8 percent of the employed residents worked in manufac- 
turing in the '90s. 

Displacement of such industries creates an imbalance 
between available jobs and the backgrounds and skills of 
local residents. If a welder or sewing machine operator 
loses her job, it's not likely she will be hired as a Java pro- 
grammer or Web site designer the following week. 

The Bulldozer as Agent of Class 'Cleansing 

In the decades after World War II direct government 
intervention to aid the capitalist economy was still in vogue 
in elite circles. An application of this idea was the use of the 
redevelopment bulldozer to forcibly remove working class 
people from valuable central city real estate. 

Many of the young male workers of the ' 30s strikes had 
hved in single room occupancy (SRO) hotels and lodging 
houses along 3rd Street in the South of Market area (SOMA). 
The 3rd Street worker's district was eventually bulldozed in 
the '60s, but not without a major fight, in which retired long- 
shoremen and others from the '30s era played a role. Today's 
low -income senior housing in that area and nearby Yerba 
Buena Gardens exist only because of that struggle. 

In the '60s the city attempted to apply the bulldozer 
approach to the Mission District as well. Mission Street is 
the "Main Street" of furniture stores and produce and meat 
markets that runs through the district. In the '60s Mission 
Street was being dug up for a BART subway and the city 
wanted to bulldoze the areas aroimd the 24th Street and 
1 6th Street subway stations for high-rise apartment towers. 

This sparked a broad-based effort at community organ- 
izing, based on the Saul Alinsky model from places like the 
WoodlawTi neighborhood in Chicago. Thousands of people in 
the Mission became involved in scores of community groups, 
which were linked into the Mission Coalition Organization 
(MCO). As many as a thousand people attended MCO com- 
munity congresses.^ 




50 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDl 




rhe MC(J prcjpu.scd an alternative cle\clopmcnt strate- 
gy for the Mission based on funding of nonprofits from fed- 
eral Model Cities grants. The city, under Mayor Joseph 
Alioto, eventually agreed to the MCO's proposal, which led 
to the formation of nonprofits like the Mission Housing 
Development Corporation (MHDC), a builder of affordable 
housing, and Mission Economic Development Association 
(MEDA), which provides services for small businesses. The 
Mission was able to avoid demolition of the heart of the 
neighborhood only because of the intense community 
activism that was channeled through the MCO. 

Diversity and Its Material Base 

The '60s was a period of rising real worker incomes 
and many people were leaving central city neighborhoods 
like the Mission for the new suburban tracts along the free- 
ways. The demographics of the Mission were changing, with 
people of Central American and Mexican descent becoming 
a majority by the '70s. 

In Magical Urbanism Mike Davis has argued that the 
Latino migration into American cities has helped to re- 
invigorate city character and the democracy of public space. 
The Mission District illustrates his point, from the throngs 
of people on foot on Mission Street to the murals that add 
color to the streetscape. 

In the '90s, the Mission District was home to about a 
third of the city's Latino population. Cultural venues like 
the Mission Cultural Center and Galeria de la Raza, and the 
numerous businesses and services along Mission and 24th 
Streets, make the Mission the cultural and commercial 
heart of the Latino community in San Francisco. For immi- 
grants, stores and service providers that speak Spanish are 
part of a support network that includes friends and family 
members. This working class, predominantly low-income, 
community would not be sustainable without cheap rents. 

Affordability also drew a significant number of artists and 



political acti\ists to the Mission District. By the early '90s the 
Mission had a dozen theaters, such as The Lab and the Theater 
Rhinoceros, which use the former union meeting spaces in 
the Redstone Building (the former AFL Labor Temple). Dance 
rehearsal and performance spaces (such as Dance Mission and 
Dancers Studio /Footwork), and other kinds of studio or 
rehearsal space were scattered about the area. 

Rents were low enough that a person could work part- 
time as a drywaller or audio tech and spend their free time 
doing experimental videos or writing political commentary 
or novels. AffordabiUty also made the city a refuge for people 
fleeing Central American death squads or queer kids escaping 
Bible Belt prejudice. 

"For decades," writes Rebecca Solnit," — college stu- 
dents, musicians, artists, writers — have been moving into 
the Mission, which some poor whites never left, but many 
of the artists and radicals who were raised there or arrived 
as adults are Latinos..." In fact the subcultures of artists and 
activists that Solnit describes in Hollow City can only thrive 
within the larger context of working class neighborhoods 
because they share the same requirement for cheap space. 

Loft Boom Colonizes the Mission 

Ironically, the city's so-called "live/work" law derives 
from the struggle of a group of artists evicted from the 
Goodman Building in 1 98 3 . A law was passed modifying the 
building codes so they could erect a new building that 
would combine studio and residential space. 

With the onset of the dot-com boom in the mid- '90s, 
the anti-union Residential Builders Association began to 
exploit the "Uve/work" law to build hundreds of loft condos 
in SOMA and in the adjacent northeast Mission. The builders 
were able to increase their profits by using cheap industrial 
land. The law exempted them from many city fees and from 
providing affordable housing units. As the city bulked up on 
its population of dot-com managers and marketing gurus, 



PRDEIESSEE] kUQRLD 5.0Q1 



51 



flush with stock options and six -figure salaries, prices of the 
loft units soon soared to $400,000 and more. The ultra-mod- 
ernist design of the live /work boxes presents a stark face to 
the surrounding community, reflecting their character as a 
fortified colony in a working class neighborhood — the garage 
door opens as the SUV approaches and then the fortress door 
clangs shut behind. 

Dot-Corn Contradiction 

The rapid expansion of multi-media and Internet-relat- 
ed firms in the city in the late '90s allowed graduates of 
local college multi-media programs to jump into entry- 
level jobs paying $30,000 to $50,000 a year. 

Some writers and artists are able to find work in the 
dot-coms doing design or content work, though the work 
they do is driven by the commercial needs of their employ- 
ers, not their own creative interests. Some work part time 
to retain more fi-ee time for doing their own thing, but the 
high-cost of housing makes it increasingly difficult to sur- 
vive without long hours of work. 

The large numbers of creative and technical people liv- 
ing in or near the city is a key reason the dot-coms wanted 
to locate in San Francisco. Displacement fueled by the dot- 
com boom led to angry rhetoric attacking "dot-commers." 
The "dot-commer" tag obscures distinctions of income and 
power. The people who simply work in the industry weren't 
calling the shots. The venture capitalists, dot-com CEOs, 
office developers, landlords of commercial buildings and 
top city leaders were making the relevant decisions. 

Some rank-and-file dot-commers were in a bind. 
Friends were being evicted, their favorite bands were losing 
practice space, the boom was destroying things they liked 
about the city. The New Economy was eating its own tail. 

Eviction Epidemic 

Throughout the '80s, the presence of working class 
people of color in the Mission had acted as a barrier to 
attracting the white professionals and managers who were 
moving to the city in increasing numbers. To the west of 
Valencia Street was an area of transition into Noe Valley and 
the Castro, where professional and managerial people 




52 



already predominated . But east of Valencia Street only 15.8 
percent of the employed residents had professional or man- 
agerial jobs in 1990. Despite its close proximity to dovioi- 
town, the Mission District remained a neighborhood of 
comparatively cheap apartments. 

A large proportion of the housing stock in the Mission 
District consists of duplexes, triplexes, and fourplexes. 
With large numbers of high-salaried people desperately 
looking for a place to live, owners of these properties were 
able to cash in. These buildings are ideal targets for Ellis Act 
conversions. The state Ellis Act permits a property owner to 
empty a building of its tenants. The owner can then sell off 
the units as a tenancy-in-common (TIC). 

Ellis Act and owner-move-in evictions soared in the 
city in the late '90s. This trend was particularly strong as the 
NASDAQ bubble reached its peak last year, with high-tech 
employees cashing in on their stock options. Ellis Act evic- 
tions in the Mission District alone went from 14 in 1995 to 
over 660 last year. City wide, 2,761 households were evict- 
ed between June 30, 1999 and June 30, 2000. 

City Leaders Give the Finger 
to the Mission 

At the corner of 17th and Valencia a two-story building 
with turn-of-the-century white terra cotta facade has just 
been demolished. A five-story luxury apartment building is 
slated to go in here, replacing Ed Arroyo and Sons, a body 
shop that employed journeymen painters and others. Most 
of the employees were Latino Mission residents. The busi- 
ness has temporarily relocated to far-off Bayview but its 
future is uncertain. 

In the '80s, young people in the Mission District would 
sometimes refer to the 'hood jokingly as the "transmission" 
because of the many body shops, brake shops, and other vehi- 
cle repair places. In fact the vehicle repair industry provides 
skilled blue-collar jobs and employs a significant number of 
Latino workers. This industry is being forcibly downsized as 
loft or dot-com office developers buy properties out fi-om 
under businesses. 

Displacement thus works along several dimensions. 
People cannot find apartments they can afford to rent and 
their employers are displaced. For artists, affordable studio 
or rehearsal space disappears. 

The luxury loft boom, followed by an explosion of 
multimedia office development, were left and right punch- 
es that drove up real estate prices and rents in the northeast 
Mission. By last year the city had allowed 1.75 million 
square feet of high-tech office space to emerge in the area, 
as the Mission was laced with 200 dot-coms. 

The loft boom didn't happen without opposition. The 
Coalition for Jobs, Arts, and Housing (CJAH) was formed in 
reaction, lobbying for changes in the live /work law. But 
CJAH's efforts were thwarted by the pro-developer bias of 
the Board of Supervisors (the city council) and the intimida- 

PRDCESSED kUDPiLD E-DDl 



,^"' ' 






CLEANE. BRIGHTER. WHITER X TK&LEClOTHS 



poster on freeway overpass, Valencia Street, San Francisco, by San Francisco Print Collective 



tion tactics of the Residential Builders Association, headed by 
the thuggish Joe O'Donoghue (a former union organizer). 

A more blunt form of protest was proposed by the 
Mission Yuppie Eradication Project, advocating sabotage of 
loft dweller's cars and squatting in newly built units. During 
the past year anger escalated to acts of arson, with the 
torching of two live /work buildings under construction. 

The stealth invasion of dot-com offices was punctuated 
last April by two massive projects. Eikon Investments pro- 
posed converting the former National Guard Armory — a 
fortress-like presence on Mission Street — into 300,000 
square feet of dot-com office space. Another developer, SKS 
(financed in part by the late William Simon, Reagan's 
Treasury secretary), proposed 160,000 square feet of high- 
rent multimedia and high-tech office space on an industrial 
site at 20th and Bryant, named "Bryant Square." SKS first had 
to evict the existing tenants, which included a small furniture 
factory, a sex-toy factory, a non-profit publisher and a sweater 
factory employing about 30 people (mostly Mission resi- 
dents) . A shed vdth cheap artist studio space was to be torn 
down. More than four dozen artists would be displaced — 
photographers, animators, videographers and designers. A 
young artist, one of the evictees, told me that people were 
"devastated" and having difficulty finding other space. 

The Bryant Square project provoked widespread oppo- 
sition in the Mission District, prompting a number of 
Mission District groups to form the Mission Anti- 
Displacement Coalition (MAC). This initiative brought 
together the staffs of MEDA and MHDC and tenant-organ- 
izing groups such as Mission Agenda and St. Peter's Housing 
Committee, plus the Day Laborers' Program and PODER, 
a Latino environmental justice group. The primary aim of 
MAC has been to prevent the displacement of the working 

PROCESSED kUDRLD E-ODl 



class, predominantly Latino, tenant population of the 
Mission District. 

On June 26th more than a hundred people spoke 
before the Board of Supervisors in opposition to the Bryant 
Square project. Guys in suits predominated among those 
speaking for the project — mainly people with ties to dot- 
com office development in one way or another. 

A handful of union leaders who had contracts with SKS 
or its subcontractors praised the developer, ignoring the 
displacement of blue collar jobs from the industrial zones 
and the effects of the dot-com boom on the ability of work- 
ers to find affordable housing. 

Ignoring the Mission district's concerns, the Board of 
Supes gave the finger to the Mission by approving the Bryant 
Square project by a vote of 8 to 3 . 

Protest Grows, Evictions Continue 

Two days later a boisterous crowd of 500 people filled 
a local school auditorium in the largest Mission District 
community meeting in years. The meeting had been called 
by MAC to confi-ont city planning commissioners and the 
head of the planning department. The crowd chanted their 
support for a moratorium on office and live/work develop- 
ment in the Mission District. 

As the movement grew during the summer, MAC's 
weekly meetings were drawing 70 to 80 activists. A de facto 
alliance had developed between progressive artists, on the 
one hand, and activist groups organizing amongst the seg- 
ments of the Mission community most at risk of displace- 
ment — Latino working class families and low-income ten- 
ants. The posters of the San Francisco Print Collective and 
video shorts produced by activist videographers were some 
of the ways artists were able to use their skills for the 



53 



defense of the larger community. 

On August 1 2th MAC led a thousand people on a cami- 
nata — billed as a walk "to defend the right to live in the 
Mission," touring sites of evictions or threatened evictions. 
Three days later about two thousand people attended an evic- 
tion party for Dancers Group /Footwork on 22nd Street, 
which was being forced out by a 500 percent rent increase. 
This space had been an Arthur Murray dance studio in the 
'50s and had been in continuous use for dance rehearsal since 
then. Three days later the police removed a group of people 
who had occupied the space in protest of the eviction. 

Dancers Group was only one of a series of high-profile 
evictions, or impending evictions, of arts groups throughout 
the year which kept the issue of displacement on the front 
pages. Down the street at 24th and Mission another dance 
studio. Dance Mission, was facing eviction as the landlord 
sought to cash in on the dot-com boom . 

The effect of high-tech conversions in the industrial 
zones was highlighted by the announcement that the owner 
of Downtown Rehearsal, a warehouse in a Bay view indus- 
trial area used for music rehearsal, was converting the 
building to a telecom switching station or server farm. The 
eviction, slated for September 25th, was a stunning blow to 
the city's music subculture, affecting 2,000 musicians. 

The proposed Armory office conversion project came 
before the Planning Commission on September 7th. A large 
crowd of Mission activists and residents were present to 
speak against the project. During the hearing, Jonathan Youtt, 
the executive director of Cellspace (an arts center in a former 
machine shop in the northeast Mission) and a member of 
MAC, spoke a few seconds past the beep announcing the end 
of his allotted speaking time, as people often do. In this case 
the chair of the Commission summoned a sheriff who 
slammed Jonathan to the floor. This action provoked a near 
riot, vdth activists chanting "Shut it down!" A week later the 



project sponsor withdrew the office development proposal in 
response to the intense conflict their proposal had generated. 
This and other protests at the Planning Commission 
had brought the actions of this obscure body to the front 
pages. The effect of this bad pubUcity was to weaken the 
credibility of the city government's handling of develop- 
ment issues. 

Developers' Candidates Defeated 

In an atmosphere of increasing polarization, leaders of 
CJAH and the Coalition of Community Housing 
Organizations (COCHO) — a consortium of non-profit 
housing developers entered into behind-the-scenes negoti- 
ations with the Chamber of Commerce to work out some 
sort of compromise. With the backing of the city's elected 
officials, the for-profit developers judged that they had no 
reason to compromise. Ever responsive to this constituency, 
Mayor Willie Brown vetoed a compromise. 

The CJAH and COCHO activists then wrote a citizens 
initiative. Proposition L. Prop L would end the "hve/work" 
loophole by making lofts subject to the same rules as other 
housing construction. Office projects larger than 6,000 
square feet would be banned in the Mission District and 
some adjacent industrial zones. Office developers would be 
required to provide some below-market-rate space for non- 
profits. MAC, CJAH and other groups collected 30,000 sig- 
natures in two-weeks to get L on the November ballot. 

The framers of Proposition L were some of the same 
activists who had crafted the "growth-control" Proposition 
M, which passed in the mid- '80s. Proposition M limited the 
amount of office space built in the city to 950,000 square 
feet per year in order to prevent job growth from driving 
up housing prices. These framers of L hoped to build the 
same cross-class coalition of working class tenants and pro- 
fessional/managerial class environmentalists that had 

continued on page 56 




54 



PRDCESSED kUDFiLD 5 -DO I 



GOING PUBLIC 

Holy Guacamole! We wuz warned, 

as we elbowed our sibs 

in those putt-putt rowboats (six-seaters) 

chasing the other famblies around 
(nucular two-parent famblies around) 
a fake pristine lagoon 

-at a nice safe unifornn distance 

-on (domestically manufactured) submersible tracks 



chased and 



serenaded 

by a plague of mechanical 

pests 

popping up everywhichwhere, 

helium voices at critical mass: 



So sorry to hear about you and the missus. 
That took real old-school class, 
blindsided outside 
Le Cirque du Fromage, 
bouquet of hand mikes in your pan: 
"I wish Mr. Seinfeld and Minnie 
much happiness." 

Not me. 

A vow is a vow. 

Even in California. 

Some days you're the only America we have left. 

by klipschutz 



.IT'S A SMALL, SMALL WORLD. 



Warned with wax in our ears. 



Just today I emailed another death threat to Malaysia, 
and not 10 minutes later received a reply(!): 

Comm and gut me, ashsole. 

I WUZ only kidding (he's my homie), 
but those caroling castrati, 
they meant business, 

the graffiti on the wall deconstructed into global 



Hf\Ziiei ^Hfi^B. 



Mickey, you knew it too. 

(When you're colorblind flags look alike in the wind.) 

You always thought big 
for a rodent. 

Big period, come to think. 

In the Magic Kingdom Polaroid, 

you were taller than dad! 

Back then chips came in baskets 

fried crisp (first one's free!) 

and Carol Doda baked Silicone Valley 

from scratch— 

what the hell did we know? 



[Prophet loss staiemenT 

1 HP was iust here, working the crowd, making] 
*".C''urF rou ta« its, *en the! 

Maybe ne go Eleusinian rid- 

And who could blame mm . «> > , 

:-r:i7r'rorar= 

rf casno or piping divination tapes on 
»hl S ?or us this slump can't last. And he s 

rn^ere they'll be back, and the bands after 
Iryge'Cped. loan fee, it in nny bones. 

by klipschutz 



PPiDCESSED LUDRLD 5.D01 



55 



backed Proposition M. 

As the November election approached, MAC and the 
city's dozens of grassroots pohtical clubs, tenant, environ- 
mental and other groups networked and progressive support 
solidified for L and converged on a common slate of candi- 
dates for the Board of Supervisors. These were grassroots 
campaigns, based on volunteers passing out literature, mak- 
ing phone calls, postering. MAC was providing about 75 vol- 
vmteers every weekend to help with the endorsed candidates. 
Meanwhile, a powerful network of development inter- 
ests and their political allies poured more than $5 million in 
"soft-money" into campaigns against L and against the pro- 
L candidates, paying for phone banks, and stuffing mailbox- 
es throughout the city with glossy four-color propaganda. 
The campaign against L was the most expensive initiative 
fight in city history. 

L was a complicated land-use measure. The anti-L prop- 
aganda had only to obfuscate and generate doubt. It was suc- 
cessful, with L narrowly defeated by about 1,300 votes. L 
lost heavily in the predominantly 
African- American Bayview district. 
The perception of L as a "slow- 
growth" measure worked against L 
in Bayview, where opponents 
framed the issue in terms of eco- 
nomic opportunities. 

But the housing crisis, rising 
evictions and the development 
fights of the past year did affect the 
election of city supervisors. The 

3 activists' work paid off in the 

n December 1 2th victories of all but 

^ one of the eight candidates sup- 

'^ ported by MAC and a liberal/radi- 
cal alliance of grassroots activists. 

The polarization around L 
helped to make clear who was willing to 
say "No" to the developers, speculators and 
their aUies. Even more important was the direct miHtancy of 
hundreds of people — the occupations and blockades of 
buildings, people speaking out at Planning Commission hear- 
ings, marches, postering and graffiti and agitprop of all kinds. 
These actions kept the issue of displacement on the front 
pages and drove the debate in the city. 

Dot-Corn Bust 

Since December, dozens of dot-coms in the city have 
crashed and burned. Venture capital is flowing elsewhere. 
The www.sfGirl.com website has moved from prowling the 
champagne-slated dot-com laimch parties last summer to 
pink-slip parties for laid-off dot-commers. In SOMA, 
where dot-coms were forking over stock to landlords to get 
space last year, the vacancy rate has risen to 20 percent. 
Office rents have fallen from $72 a year per square foot in 




December to about $50. 

Barring some global capitalist meltdown, the residen- 
tial market is not likely to see the same decHne that we have 
seen with office space rents. The unregulated commercial 
market is far more volatile, as businesses expand into space 
during upswings in the business cycle and then contract to 
reduce expenses in downturns. 

People need a place to hve even if they're currently 
unemployed. "I don't think we'll see prices go down," says 
Walter EUingwood, executive vice-president of Rent Tech 
(an online rental agency). "Landlords are now more reluctant 
to raise rents, but they would still rather keep their units 
vacant than to rent it for less than what they were renting it 
for before."* 

In some cases landlords' expectations have outrun the 
market, and they may lower their asking price to keep apart- 
ments fi-om being vacant too long. With the dotcom collapse 
the vacancy rate in the city has risen fi-om one percent to five 
percent. Despite this, a recent RentTech survey found that 
average rents for one-bedroom vmits had 
dropped a minuscule 1 . 3 percent 
since fall. In February the city Rent 
Board reported 1 66 evictions in the 
city, down only shghtly fi-om the 
previous year. 

Future Direction? 

As expected, the new Board of 
Supervisors has moved quickly to 
implement at least some of Prop L. A 
temporary ban was enacted against 
"live /work" lofts. MAC has proposed a short- 
term ban on high-tech office development in 
the Mission District, and a requirement of 25 
percent affordable units for all new market- 
rate housing developments. The board is likely 
to approve this proposal when it comes up for 
a vote. 

The intent of the proposed ban is to channel office 
development downtown. But this vsill not end the pressure 
on the Mission District housing supply. The Mission is only 
an eight-minute ride from the financial district. 

Despite the dot-com shakeout, the Bay Area remains a 
powerful center of computer, bio-tech and Internet-related 
industries. The dot-com bust may herald a recession this year, 
but more growth is likely in the next expansion. 

Market forces are working to change the demographics 
of the Mission, apartment by apartment, building by build- 
ing. Private ownership of the neighborhood's buildings by 
people other than those people living in them enables the 
owners to evict tenants under the Ellis Act and raise rents of 
vacant units to whatever they can get. 

This displacement is not inevitable but an effective 
solution requires that we get to the root of the problem. 



56 



PHDCESSED kUORLD E-ODl 



A 



The problem is not a lack of 
sites in the city for new housing. A 
city Planning Department report / n\ 
that there are under-uti- 
for 



l^Chll IT 







notes tnat tnere are 
lized parcels with space 
60,000 dwelling units under cur- 
rent zoning.' 

Getting to the root of the 
problem means attacking the own- 
ership structure of real estate. 
Some local activist are proposing 
community land trusts as a new 
model for affordable housing'". A 
community land trust is a demo- 
cratic community membership 
organization that would enable 
tenants to convert their buildings 
into cooperatives, or develop new 
coop buildings. The land trust 
would retain ownership of the land 
under the buildings, to take it per- 
manently off the market. The land 
trust model poses the possibility of 
community self-management of 
real estate development. 

A weakness of public housing 
programs in the U.S. has been the 
absence of control by residents 
over the buildings where they live. 
Cooperatives empower residents 
and give them a stake in the com- 
munity. 

A satisfactory solution 
requires an expansion of housing 
supply at moderate prices. Building 
more dwelling units means making 
the city a denser place. This will 
require organizing to get around 
neighborhood NIMBYs who often 

use environmental arguments to try to block or downsize 
multi-unit housing developments. 

A program that is far-reaching enough to make a dent 
in the housing crisis won't be cheap — hundreds of millions 
of dollars in funding will be needed. New tax streams will 
be required. The city has the powers to borrow and tax that 
can finance this sort of program. But it is not likely to use 
those powers for the benefit of the ordinary people of the 
city without a major movement from below. Those who are 
at risk of being displaced, who want to stay, and all those 
who want to preserve the city's social and cultural diversi- 
ty, need to take the initiative, to craft solutions that address 
the real roots of the crisis. ? 




fts AN ftTreMrr tp co^QUei^ NffrfL^ /ef. 







T\\\S WiLl- tAf^^^ The; 




«5^S^ 



riA\/^ -mt<&^l The \iO(^6NG" fgMfise, 



H l+UtJTiNG 








T^cHW^LOG/ voiut fROvi^B^ IF NOT 
TrtS Ai^Sul &R.CcprAiNiy AM 




Notes 

1 . Cassi Feldman, "Landlords don't let up", San Francisco Bay 
Guardian, Apr. 4, 2001 , and Victor Miller, "Rent hikes may oust 
100 tenants". New Mission News, Apr., 2001 

2. "Venture Capital Epicenter," San Francisco Chronicle, Nov. 3, 2000 

3. "Demand High for Offices in S.F.", San Francisco Chronicle, 
October 10, 2000 

4. "San Francisco Housing Inventory," S.F. Planning Dept., 1999 

5. "Apartment rents soar", San Jose Mercury News, August 26, 2000 

6. "No Sign Housing Market Is Slowing," S.F Chronicle, Mar. 4, 2001 

7. M.Toby Levine, "Planning our history and the history of plan- 
ning in the Mission", New Mission News, Oct. 2000 

8. Quoted in "Dot-coms' demise could alleviate rent problems," 
San Francisco Examiner, Dec. 29, 2000 

9. San Francisco City Planning Commission, Resolution No. 

14861, 1999 

10. See http://www.snandtrust.org. 



PRDCESSED LUDRLD E.DDl 



57 



I Live in the Past: The Rent is Cheaper! 



V^l"»'''?siO(» 






by Zoe Noe 

I used to think sometimes, after visiting a place like New 
York, how thankful I was to have wound up in San 
Francisco. New York seemed the kind of place you'd get 
buried alive if you weren't careful and didn't have a plan, but 
San Francisco afforded me the chance to spend years basically 
bumbling around without a clue about what I might eventual- 
ly want to do. I had a poignant moment last summer when we 
needed to fill a room for a couple months. No friends were 
expressing interest, so we posted an ad on craigslist. 

I was unprepared for the response. The phone ringing off 
the hook. Hundreds of emails. The answering machine tape 
filled up within the hour. I got home from work to find that 
my roommate had told everyone who called to just come on 
over that evening between 8 and 1 and take a look at the 
room. 
nuos'jrcwf During our insane impromptu open house, with my 
attention flitting from one desperate seeker to another (and 
some who were just taking in the scene, I got into a conver- 
sation with a 22 year old, who had just moved out here from 
St. Louis. He reminded me a lot of me when I first arrived. 
I was 22, from the Midwest: gentle, soft-spoken, full of hope 
and curiosity. The biggest difference was that he came with 
$4,000 saved up, Internet job contacts arranged ahead of 
time; yet he had been couch-surfing for months in San 
Mateo, chasing after that elusive place in the city. I couldn't 
help thinking how different it was for me when I came here 
in 1981, fresh off a Greyhound with $ 300 in my ^^_^ ISS*^?"**' 
pocket. 

I was any- 




nt 



H ^ 



ov) 



Ht) 



^£ 



thing but 

%^^.\:y:'} \ \ J^ focused in those days. In my 

fll-st couple of years here, I think I had close 
to 30 jobs; some lasting only a matter of hours, 
others dragging on for several months. (See "Lose 
Jobs Now, Ask Me How!" in ?W#\1 .) One week it 
might be conducting telephone surveys, another 
substitute teaching at a day program for retarded! 
adults. (More like glorified babysitting; it didn't 
seem to matter that I lacked formal quahfication. I 
showed them a few "letters of recommendation" 
that I'd instructed a classroom of 3rd graders to 



write for me on April Fool's Day at a Catholic school in the 
Mission District.) .^ 

Job security was not a concept I could relate to. But 
then my rent was only $ 1 00 a month for a tiny converted 
laundry room with a loft in the back of a huge, rambling flat 
on Haight St. As many as 1 2 people lived there, all sharing 
the same phone line with no answering machine, amazingly 
enough. Hardly anyone had a regular job, quite a few were 
unemployed, and some dealt drugs to get by. 

If you were broke it was easy to scam on MUNI. (We 
had a complete set of the color-coded transfers they were 
using at the time — we'd find out what transfer they were 
using that day, then consult our collection, or paste like-col- 
ored transfers together to make them 
longer. Some months we'd be styling 
with color xeroxed fast passes. I went 
two whole years once without paying 
fare!) ^ |\ 

Food stamps were easier to get 
then, and there were numerous 
soup kitchens, plus the fun free 
feast on Saturdays at the 
Kali Flower Kollective that was both 
soup kitchen and cabaret — very theatrical! 
Failing that, one of the roommates would often i 
show up with one of those huge plastic bags > 
filled with day-old bagels. 

Being so sketchily employed meant having 
time to spare. I could put in lots of time on 
Processed World, and do the street theatre /maga- 
zine hawking every Friday lunchtime in the 
Financial District. There was time to indulge 
flights of whim — take a Super-8 film class at 
City College, sew a rug out of carpet samples, or 
just walk in the park. 



58 



PPiDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDl 



There is still the occasional sweet deal that manages to 
slip through the cracks in the real estate market (though usu- 
ally it means you need to have lived here a long time to even 
know about it, and then you can never move again). About 
six years ago I was fortunate to move into a revolving house- 
hold which had held the same lease since the mid 1980s. The 
landlord was a cranky old Irishman who took care of his 
body like he took care of his buildings, which is to say largely 
by neglect. 

The Dept. of 
Inspections kept 
trying to nail him, 
but he always 
ignored them or 
told them to fuck 
off. I found an 
inspection report 
from 1985 urging 
replacement of the 
back stairs, which 
still hadn't been 
done when he 
passed away in 2000 
(at the height of the 
dot com juggernaut 
on the city's neigh- 
borhoods). Oh, he 

patched them up numerous times; some (nldls-spdeeil planks 
pounded in here, a little Fix- All there. 

He would usually shuffle through with a kind word, and 
he kept the rent cheap. I'm 
not even sure if he knew ^^ "Oy^.-. 
just what market rents 
were, as his were about 
1 years behind the 
times, and most years 
he would forget to 
raise it. 

Legends 
abounded about 
his generosity. When 
our friend Tyrrell first went to 
meet him and see the apartment, she showed 
up in her peasant dress and lively Irish smile, and he 
was so charmed that he rented the place to her and told this 
pair of uptight yuppies to beat it. Or another time, later, 
when a bunch of extra folks were crashing at the apartment, 
Tyrrell got nervous that he might find out how many peo- 
ple were staying at the flat. He did find out — and he actu- 
ally commended her for taking in all these extra people and 
putting a roof over their heads — and even gave her back 
$100 of the rent! 

The Dept. of Inspections finally caught up with him after 





Red "F' or not, 
here I come! 




Zoe photo by Joni 




PRDCESSEEl kUDBLD E-ODl 



years of being deflected, 
and started tightening the 
screws. 
After he ignored 
another hearing, they 
seized his three houses and 
put them in court-appoint- 
ed receivership. I think 
that's what killed him. His 
health, which never had 
been robust in the time 
that we knew him, sud- 
denly declined precipi- 
tously. Cancer spread 
like wildfire, and he was 
dead within three 
weeks. 
The house has been 
in a strange state of 
limbo since then — 
which has been advanta- 
geous for us despite the 
lingering uncertainty. 
Our rent has stayed the 
same. We pay it to the 
receiver, who has 
ostensibly used it to 
fund the repairs that Mike 
had been so delinquent on. 
We've been satisfied to see 
the repairs drag on and on, 
since the building can't 
really go on the open market until it's 
out of receivership, and the San 
Francisco housing market has cooled 
considerably. 
Now it seems that 
San Francisco has 
become much more like 
New York, and a young 
person arriving today 
hardly has the same options 
I did; to land in San 
Francisco with only $ 300 and 
know everything will be 
alright. A luxury of unstruc- 
tured time that San Francisco 
used to be so generous in giving. 
(It's weird to think of it as a lux- 
ury!) The San Francisco I'm eulo- 
gizing has completely disap- 
peared, but you have to be damn 
lucky to find it. 

T 

59 




Notes from a Help Desk 

I want to give a small example of something that happened 
to me this week at work (I am a help desk worker and 
occasional network admin) for a General Electric sub- 
sidiary ("they're the 



here for a week. Make him start by trying to do his job as we 
field all the phone calls, run around, do projects, etc. Then 
after two days, let's make him answer a call an hour and have 
him still try to do his other job. Then let's leave him alone to 
answer calls, as happens to us on a fairly frequent basis, while 
the rest of us go fix problems." So far, he just wants him to 
taste the pain. But then he says, "Better yet, let's bring down 
one system everyday so he can see what we really have to face 
fi-om time to time. We'll bring down a different server each 
day. That should fucking teach him!" 

Now, will we do it? Pro'Uy not at that level. But will this 
guy get a roasting while he is there? You bet. Regardless of 



worst Generals of all 
you know!"). The help 
desk is scheduled to be 
partially outsourced to 
India. The company is 
outsourcing Level 1 
support, mostly initial 
call taking and opening 
of cases. This decision 
has basically been made 
and now they have 
project team to 'study 
the feasibility', i.e. justi- 
fy the move. The jackass 
leading this project 
doesn't know a comput- 
er from an Etch-a- 
Sketch and has no idea 
about what kind of 
work we do, our work- 
load, etc. Nor does he 
really care. 

All he wants is to 
get rid of a few of us, 
and speed up response 
and resolution times, 
i.e. work faster, pro- 
duce more, then we can 
really prove we didn't 
need you! 

One of the people I 
work with, who lives in 
a fairly well off suburb 
and who is a sort of All- 
American blonde ex- 
jock, with mavbe some 
Green Party leanings, 
looks at all of us and says 
"Let's get the bastard in 



cartoon continued from page 42 







wmm 


















M.^ KAWiAt-S u>-t>^-c fee 



60 



PRDCESSED LUDRLD E-DDl 



the conscious political beliefs of the people I work with 
(mostly pro-company), they are ready to challenge the com- 
pany suck-up and cause problems in production in order to 
protect themselves. Would anyone see this if they did not 
work on this helpdesk? No. Will it cost GE some money and 
stick it to this management jerk? Yes. Is it class struggle? You 
bet. Is it enough to overthrow capital? Of course not. But it 
did open a discussion, once again, of what the company is 
about, about what it means to be a worker, about profit over 
our needs, etc. My co-workers, with no intervention from 
me, opened a space for contesting capital in some small way 
and that also opened a space for discussion. Could I have 



'to r>0 /vAA^WVv^ ^v^ 








,0 Tm Wl&s \^iof^ 0^? ^^^^ ^ 

see- WHf .'/yujovJ'yleM .e^"/«<-t-r'5 v^s /m*^oVi«£ 
pouted ^-^ VAVP^^UL|/Vfi5> 



n^'- 



U?9 '^0 p^^c^Jf^ ^i^^'- 




planned that? Probably not. 

Every smart organizer I know, whether unionist or com- 
munist, recognizes that you can't force this kind of thing or 
create it. That may fly in the face of Leninist and unionist 
ideas of leadership, but that is also why so many 'militants' 
leave these organizations and why they can only rarely attract 
creative political people who stay. 

It opens different ideas about what it means to be a rev- 
olutionary, a communist. It means not pretending to lead. 
Not pretending to have a worked out strategy and set of tac- 
tics. Rather, what we bring are ideas, ideas that we try to 
offer as ways of understanding why such and such happened; 

that it will happen again 
and why; and how there 
are ways out. In other 
words, ways to change 
the world that reside in 
our collective self-deter- 
mination, and not in the 
right party or the right 
program. Walking we lis- 
ten. Or as they used to 
say, you gotta walk a mile 
in her shoes. 

If we do our job, then 
we respond to struggles, 
help them clarify both 
during and after, and we 
try to act personally and 
live in a way that is worth 
emulating, that is rich in 
life and struggle. The 
Leninists I know are usual- 
ly awful examples of 
human lives. TTiey are the 
most over-worked gerbils 
in a wheel I know and so 
many of them are so damn 
boring. There is a great 
value to the Situationist 
critique of 'militantism' 
(not that we can do noth- 
ing, but it changes the 
scope and nature of our 
interventions.) 

Anyway, that's a bit 
of a tangent and too one- 
sided, but it is too often 
left out. Revolution is 
about living differently, 
not as isolated individu- 
als, but in struggle. I am a 
communist not because I 



TAU- 






A-0 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-ODl 



61 



have a love of the oppressed, but because I am oppressed and 
the only way out is collectively. 

Yours in struggle, 
Chris W. Chicago. IL. USA 
Postscript: The management hack never showed up, but 
some systems mysteriously, and not so mysteriously, did 
experience problems. Due to a gas company workers' 
strike, the scabs doing tasks cut MCI's data lines in Chicago, 
taking down our phone and data for a whole day. Also, some 
changes were made to the servers that locked a large num- 
ber of people out of the system. Who made that change? No 
one knows. Gremlins? ? 

On the Lines at York University 

Fighting Neoliberalism in Post-Secondary Education 

On January 1 1 , 2001 , a 78 day strike by teaching, re- 
search and graduate assistants (TAs/RAs/GAs) at 
York University ended. The strike at Canada's third 
largest university, the longest such in Canadian history, was dif- 
ferent from many in the postsecondary sector in that it result- 
ed in a fairly substantial victory for the strikers. Through years 
of effort, the unionized York University workers managed to 
secure a good contract. A loss would have had devastating 
effects on post-secondary education workers across Canadian 
campuses. In broader terms, in order for the neoliberal agen- 
da of privatization and marketization of post-secondary educa- 
tion to be fully implemented, defenders of accessible quality 
education — of which Local 3903 has been in the forefront in 
Canada — must be brought to heel or, even better (from the 
view of the bosses), eliminated entirely. 

The proposals made by York administration were typi- 
cal of the corporatization drive in other public service sec- 
tors: privatization, reduced job security and reductions in 
wages and benefits. The political character of the strike and 
its importance in the battle against neoliberal marketization 
of post-secondary education were reflected in two of the 
major issues being fought over in the strike: tuition indexa- 
tion and those of job security and promotion. 

The union, fighting for principles of universality and 
accessibility, was committed to tuition relief for future as 
well as current TAs and GA/RAs. Tuition indexation, a fee 
rebate which increases dollar-for-dollar with tuition, offers 
some protection against the tuition increases which have 
eroded the already limited accessibility of post-secondary 
education in Canada. Current union TAs had this protection 
but the university was seeking to eliminate it for future 
members through a "grandparent" clause. Losing indexation 
in the only local to have it would have been a crushing blow 
for locals vdth contracts due such as at Carleton (Ottawa), 
and McMaster (Hamilton). Since full-time registration is a 
requirement for holding a TAship or GA/RAship, tuition 



works as a ready-made mechanism for management to take 
back any gains workers might win. In this way the univer- 
sity works much like a company store: no matter how much 
wages are increased, workers always find themselves owing 
something more. 

The tuition requirement also represents a discrimina- 
tory employment arrangement which distinguishes TAs and 
RA/GAs from all other York employees. Other university 
workers, whether professors, secretaries or maintenance 
staff enjoy free tuition at York for themselves and their fam- 
ilies. The same tuition waiver holds for TAs at most univer- 
sities in the US. 

After tuition, and even with the protection offered by 
indexation, TAs at York are left with an income of 
$9,749.28 (Canadian) per year, substantially below the 
Toronto poverty line of $17,1 3 2. The situation for RA/GAs 
is even worse. York offered them a minimum of $4,500, not 
even enough to pay the $5,184.72 tuition costs. In addi- 
tion, all graduate students since 1996/97 have been 
required to pay tuition in the summer even if they are fin- 
ished with course work, which amounts to the world's most 
expensive library card. 

The enormous tuition increases of recent years have 
been permitted, indeed encouraged, by federal government 
cuts to education funding and at the provincial level through 
deregulation of tuition fees for graduate and professional 
programs. At the same time the budgets of research funding 
bodies have suffered reductions and freezes. Most schools, 
including York, have eliminated graduate post-residence 
fees which previously protected graduate students from 
paying full fees once their coursework was finished. This has 
had a disastrous impact on students as it represents a dou- 
bhng of previous fees for each year except the first in pro- 
grams which can take over six years to complete. It has also 
played nicely into the hands of university administrators as 
the pressures on students to find off-campus work to make 
up the tuition increases has lengthened completion times 
for many students. The administration's refusal to offer liv- 
able wages suggests a commitment to student poverty, debt 
and, inevitably, decreased enrollment by students from 
low-income backgrounds. Another major plank in the cor- 
poratization agenda in post-secondary education has been 
movement away from secure tenure-track positions 
towards increased reliance on contract faculty. Efforts by 
university administrations to keep contract faculty working 
without even minimal job security provisions is a key part 
of the requirement to "flexibilize" labour as campuses are 
made to fit the lean |)roduction models of other sectors. 
Contract faculty at York currently have to apply for their 
jobs every four to eight months regardless of seniority. Even 
those who have taught a course for 20 years have to 
re -apply to teach it, with no guarantee that they vdll be 
rehired. To protect against this. Local 3903 fought for an 



62 



PPiDCESSED kUDFiLD E-DOl 



increase in the number of conversions of contract faculty to 
tenure stream. 

The university's intransigence speaks to the poHtical 
character of the negotiations and suggests that the adminis- 
tration beheved it had powerful support for its actions. The 
administration hired a Chief Negotiator from an infamous 
union-busting section of the Heenan Blalde law firm. The 
same negotiator worked for administrations during faculty 
strikes against York and Trent Universities. 

Interestingly, York President Lorna Marsden sits on the 
Boards of Directors for corporations which donated over 
$28,000 to the same Conservative Ontario government 
which deregulated graduate fees and is constructing a bill to 
allow private universities in the province. Her political con- 
nections run even deeper, as she is the former 
Vice-President of the Liberal Party of Canada, the very 
party which set the stage for tuition deregulation by cutting 
education transfers to the provinces. 

The York Board of Governors consists primarily of cor- 
porate Directors and CEOs. For example, one Governor 
authored a 1996 report recommending that the Provincial 
government deregulate tuition fees, a proposal which has 
been given life in a Bill currently [March, 2001] going 
through readings in the Ontario legislature. Another Board 
member is CEO and Chair of the Canadian Imperial Bank 
of Commerce, which administers student loans and profits 
from the increased student debts related to costly tuition. 

Solidarity/Picket Strength 

The only way that strikers were able to withstand the 
assaults by strike breakers, theft of fire barrels and safety 
gates, threats of arrests and a government sponsored forced 
ratification vote was through militance on the picket line 
and tremendous solidarity given by supporters on and off of 
campus. Local 3903 has a long history as an activist local, 
forming flying squads to support other unions and commu- 
nity groups and doing much support work for militant 
organizations like the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty 
(OCAP). During the strike this solidarity was returned 
tremendously. 

Autoworkers provided food to picketers nearly every 
day of the strike; steelworkers and high school teachers 
showed up to strengthen lines when the university president 
threatened to bus students in; undergraduate students organ- 
ized occupations and rallies against the administration; stu- 
dent groups like the Iranian Students' Association brought 
snacks and cheerful greetings; university 
workers showed up from other cities to walk 
the lines; day care workers — themselves 
enduring a six month strike (now seven and 
counting) and OCAP, always ready when 
threats of cops were on the lips of adminis- 
trators — all of these people came out and 



showed the kind of solidarity that is necessary to win. 

Thankfully there was a consistent core of militants who 
took the time to confront union bureaucrats over strategies 
and tactics and to ensure the autonomy of pickets and the 
priorities of rank-and-file decision-making on the lines. 
When picket captains cheered cop actions against scabs, 
militants reminded them that the cops are not our friends. 
When union leaders warned against trying to stop strike- 
breakers from jumping the line or chastized strikers for get- 
ting in front of jumpers, militants reminded them what a 
picket line is all about and made it clear that such repri- 
mands were unacceptable. 

It's a fact, usually denied or unnoticed by union bureau- 
crats, that strikes are won on the picket line. At York, mil- 
itance and strength on the line made the difference even in 
the face of less than confident union leaders who too often 
seemed to think that politeness and kindness towards 
strikebreakers would carry the day. 

by Jeff Shantz 

Silicon Valley DeBug 

Thankfully, not all of the sharp young workers in the 
new economy bought into the nonsense that high- 
tech is a benign industry, free from pollution and 
labor abuses. A group calling itself "SiHcon Valley DeBug: The 
Voice of the Young and Temporary," had those illusions shat- 
tered years ago, thanks to temp work on high-tech assembly 
lines and in chemical-suffused chipmaking "clean rooms." 

These days, the group is busy posting tales of toil on their 
website at http://www.siliconvalleydebug.com, upstaging 
the complainers on http://www.fuckedcompciny.com with 
stories from some truly fucked companies. Read the work- 
diary of Shana White, a 20-year old temporary receptionist at 
Bell Micro Products in San Jose, whose 40-year old mother 
assembles printed circuit boards in the back room. Over 
lunch, her mother routinely complains of chemical spills and 
headaches from fumes and fluxes, many of which contain 
known neurotoxins. An immigrant from Nicaragua, the 
mother is just happy to have a job. 

Read also the story of a blood-and-cyanide packer for 
Abbot Labs; an HP Laserjet assembler working for 
Manpower; and a clean-room worker kicking a crank habit 
— yet another incidental exposure from chip manufactur- 
ing's 12-hour shifts. Clean chemistry, indeed. 

by Jim Fisher 




PPiDEESSED kUDRLD E-DOl 



63 



The Great Bicycle 
Protest of 1 896 



The 1890s popular movement Jor Good Roads, pushed most 
ardently by bicyclists, is oj note Jor several reasons. Primarily thejight 

Jor better conditions Jor bicycling unknowingly set the stage Jor the 
rise of the private automobile.Within a decade of the big demonstra- 
tions detailed here, better roads and improved tire technology com- 
bined wit/i breakthroughs in internal combustion to launch the car 
industry. Obviously the private automobile has played a pivotal role 
in tranjerring the cost of transportation to the individual (thereby 
intensjyingjinancial needs, summed up in the absurd conundrum of 
"driving to work to make money to pay Jor my car to drive to work"). 
It has also been central to the speeding up oJ daily IJe, especially in 
the sprawl of the postWorldWar II era. (Of course ijyou're stuck in a 
trcjficjam during every commute, you may question how"speeded up" 
the car has made your IJe). In any case, the colojul popular demon- 
strations thatjilled San Francisco's decrepit streets in the 1890sjind 
a contemporary echo in the monthly Critical Mass bike rides that 
started in San Francisco in 1 992 and spread across the world. The 
unintended consequences of the 1 9th century popular mobilization 

Jor Good Roads provide important Jood Jor thought as we engage in 
political movements oJ resistance and imagination. 
—C.C. 

by Hank Chapot 

The bicycle took America by storm in the last part 
of the 1800s, becoming an object of pleasure and 
symbol of progress. Enthusiasts hailed the bicycle 
as "a democratizing force for good, the silent steed of 
steel, the modern horse." The Gilded Age was the Bicycle 
Age. Millions of new bicychsts were soon demanding 
good roads to accompany their embrace of the new-fan- 
gled means of transportation. 

San Francisco, though the third wealthiest city in the 
nation, was an aging boomtown. Streets were muddy or 
dusty, full of horseshit, and increasingly crisscrossed with 
a hodgepodge of streetcar tracks and cable slots, creating 
an unpredictable, hazardous mess. The city's old dirt roads 
and cobblestone thoroughfares were originally laid down 
for a village of 40,000 were now serving a metropolis of 
360,000. 

On Saturday July 25th of 1896, after months of organ- 
izing by cyclists and good roads advocates, residents took to 
the streets in downtown San Francisco, inspired by the pos- 
sibilities of the nation's wonderful new machine, the bicy- 
cle. Enjoyed by perhaps 100,000 spectators, the parade 



64 



ended in unanimously approved resolutions in favor of good 
roads, and a near riot at Kearny and Market. The next day's 
headlines in the San Francisco Call captured the rally's suc- 
cess: "San Francisco Bicycle Riders Disciples Of 
Progress"; "A Most Novel And Magnificent Wheel 
Pageant Did Light Up Folsom Street." 

Since the 1 880's, riders across the country had lobbied 
for access to the streets. Increasingly organized, their mis- 
sion was political and social as cycling became a way of life. 
Bicyclists demonstrated in large American cities, including 
Chicago, where wheelmen and wheelwomen held riding 
exhibitions and mass meetings, forcing the city to withdraw 
a rail franchise for a west end boulevard. The bicycle's pop- 
ularity exploded with the Safety Bicycle (circa 1885) that 
eliminated the danger of riding the giant "high wheelers." 
The "Safety" had many of the innovations of contemporary 
bicycles. The invention of the pneumatic tire in 1889 cush- 
ioned the ride. Bicycle owTiership exploded in the 1890's 
among all classes, shop owTiers purchased delivery bikes 
and businesses purchased fleets. 

Yet, animosity toward the bicycle grew with its popu- 
larity. Cities passed ordinances restricting hours and setting 
speed limits. Riders responded by using their organized 
"wheel clubs" that in addition to political activism, promot- 
ed social events, elected officers, ran competitions, spon- 
sored dances and country rides. Many had clubhouses in the 
city and ran "wheel hotels" in the countryside. The women 
of the Falcon Cycling Club ran one in an abandoned street- 
car near Ocean Beach. 

Through the League of American Wheelmen (L.A.W.), 
founded in 1880 in Rhode Island, cyclists across the coun- 
try joined the movement. Bicycle organizing was already in 
full swing by 1887 when the New York Times editorialized 
". . . since bicycles have been declared vehicles by the 
courts, they should be declared by statute entitled to the 
privileges and subject to the duties of wheeled traffic." As 
local agitation grew into a national movement, the L.A.W. 
became the umbrella organization for the wider good roads 
movement. Bicycle agitation spread globally and locally. 
Candidates for local office found that unless they supported 
good roads, they stood little chance against well-organized 
L.A.W. chapters. 

The San Francisco Movement 

The 1 896 protest was tied to the campaign to pass a City 
Charter that among other changes, would nuUify unused 

PPiDCESSED LUDF^LD E-DDl 




SAN FR.4NC1SC0 BK^IYCLE RIDERS AS D ISCIPLES OF PROGRESS. 

Entliusiastie Outpouning -of Devotees of tlje Wfjeel Wtjo Jlre .Determined oft Improving 
Citya Ttjoroughfapes-^-Fully One' Jiundred' Ttjousand Spe'etatops .Viewed tl^e Papade.,' 



ttj( 




street rail franchises. New franchises would have to be run- 
ning in six months. The charter was a core project of the 
Southside Merchants Association, and the cyclery owners of 
the Cycle Board of Trade were unanimous in support. The 
protest offered a chance to rally San Francisco to the cause. 

People wanted abandoned rail tracks removed, pave- 
ment between the rails and reduction of the height of the 
slot. They wanted Market Street sidewalks reduced and over- 
head wires put underground when streets were re-built — 
common practices in eastern cities. Cyclists risked crashing 
upon the raised steel slot in the roadbed through which cable 
cars gripped the cable, or slipping on the unpaved trackways. 
Most cyclists hated "the slot" and the street railways that ran 
on it. Companies were killing old franchises to maintain their 
monopolies but leaving the tracks in place. 

Mission District bicychsts wanted access to downtown. 
Folsom Street was the main boulevard through the Mission 
and cyclists worked diligently for pavement from 29th to 
Rincon Hill. The July 25th rally would celebrate the opening 
of a newlv paved portion. They also wanted a road from their 

PPiDCESSED kUDRLQ E-ODl 



neighborhood to Golden 
Gate Park, and because thou- 
sands were riding there at 
night, they wanted illumina- 
tion with electric lights like 
Central Park. 

The San Francisco Call, a 
major supporter of the 
movement, interviewed 
owners and managers of 
some of the numerous 
cyclerys in towTi, who spoke 
as one. Each was a sponsor of 
"the agitation" and each 
would close early on 
Saturday. In San Francisco 
that July, their demand was 
"Repave Market Street," 
their motto, "Where There Is 
a Wheel, There Is a Way." 

A five-year wheelman 
named McGuire, speaking 
for the South Side 
Improvement Club stated: 
"The purpose for the march 
is three-fold; to show our 
strength, to celebrate the 
paving of Folsom Street and 
to protest against the condi- 
tions of San Francisco pave- 
ment in general and of 
Market Street in particular. If 
the united press of this city 
decides that Market Street 
must be repaved, it wall be 
done in a year." Asked if southsiders were offended that the 
grandstand would be north of Market, McGuire exclaimed, 
"Offended! No! We want the north side to be waked up. We 
south of Market folks are lively enough, but you people over 
the line are deader than Pharaoh!" 

Meeting at the Indiana Bicycle Company the Thursday 
before the parade, cyclists discussed their greatest oppo- 
nent, the Market Street Railway, whom they blamed for the 
sorry condition of their main thoroughfare. "A person takes 
his life into his owti hands when he rides on that street" 
someone said, accusing the streetcar company of sprinkling 
the street when many wheelmen and women were heading 
home from work. Another predicted that "with good roads, 
urban workers would ride to their places of business ... a 
good thing because it would cut into the income of the 
t\Tannical street railroad ."They had a friend in the Street 
Department, a wheelman himself, who promised that all 
obstacles would be removed from the route Saturday and 
streets would not be sprinkled. 

65 



The Emporium Department Store paved Market 
Street at Sth at it's own expense, using tarred wooden 
blocks laid over the old basalt as an example of what 
Market Street should look like. Unfortunately, much of 
the Emporium's efforts would be undone during the 
commotion later on Saturday evening. 

Several politicians had been invited. "Most sent letters 
assuring their friendly disposition toward the wheelmen." 
With the appointment of so many vice-presidents to the 
parade committee, including the Mayor, two 
Congressmen, both Senators and the City Supervisors, 
political notice seemed assured. From the Cycle Board of 
Trade and the Southside Improvement Association, the 
call went out to bicyclists and "all progressive and public- 
spirited citizens to participate." 

The Great Bicycle Demonstration 
July 25, 1896 

Thousands of spectators from "the less progressive sec- 
tions of the city" were expected. The decorations commit- 
tee had provided 8,000 Chinese lanterns, distributed by the 
Indiana Bicycle Company. Cyclists were encouraged to dec- 
orate their wheels, citizens along the route to decorate their 
properties, with prizes offered for the finest display. 

By early evening, homes and businesses along Folsom 
Street were ablaze with firehght as the committee made its 
rounds. Businesses decorated their storefronts; one was cov- 
ered with colorful bunting and flags surrounded by lanterns 
while a homeowner used carriage lanterns, to cast colored 
lights onto the street. The Folsom Street Stables were a mass 
of torchlight. 

Promoters had failed to get electric lights strung the 
length of Folsom Street, but the mansions, businesses and 
walk-ups "were not content to burn a single hallway light as 
usual but were illuminated basement to garret a full stream 
of gaslight in every room commending a view of the street 
with an abundance of Chinese lanterns strung from eaves to 
buildings across the street." Calcium lights cast the brightest 
glow but many windows "were lit in the old fashioned style, 
rows of candles placed one above the other." Every window 
bulged with cheering spectators. 

The divisions gathered on Shotwell Street in their finest 
riding attire and street clodies, or their most gruesome cos- 
tumes. The largest (from the L.A.W.) dressed as street-labor- 
ers. The Bay City Wheelmen, YMCA Cyclers, the Pacific, 
Liberty, Olympia, Call and Pathfinders were all represented. 
Members wore insignias of their affiliations. "Unattached 
friends" were invited to join a favorite division. 

A few men rode in drag, one "in the togs of a Midway 
Plaisance maiden," another as an old maid. Uncle Sam rode in 
bloomers next to a down-home hayseed. There were meaner 
stereotypes: Sitting Bull and Pocahontas; a man in bloomers 
mocking "the new women;" one in blackface; one "imitating a 
Chinese in siUcs and slippers." 




Bicycles were adorned with ribbons and painted canvas 
with lanterns strung from the handlebars or from poles 
above — "a sea of Chinese lanterns as far as the eye could 
see." One was decorated with a stack of parasols, another 
intertwined with flowers and garlands, others "revolving 
discs of light guided by mystic men in garbs of flame ."A few 
rode the old-fashioned "high-wheelers." Tandems were 
joined to create a pirate ship, while another pair carried "a 
little chariot from which a child drove through the air two 
beautiful little bicycles." Many carried cowbells that "turned 
the night into pandemonium." 

Clubs from as far away as Fremont, Vallejo, Santa Rosa 
and San Jose lined up alongside worker's divisions, letter 
carriers, soldiers from the Presidio and sailors from Angel 
Island. The Call stated cheerfully, "Though most of the col- 
umn was composed of clubs, there was no restraining Une 
to prevent the participation of individuals. Everyone was 
welcome to the merrymaking." 

One club however, did not attend. For three years, the 
Colored Cycle Club of Oakland had been seeking member- 
ship in the L.A.W. Three days earlier they were again denied 
membership. Nevertheless, the next day's Sunday Call 
would exclaim, "Bicyclists of every age, race, sex and 
color — bicyclists from every stratum of cycledom, the 
scorcher to the hoary headed patriarch . . . turned out for 
the great demonstration in favor of good streets." 

The parade president had invited liverymen and team- 
sters to join the march, and though many southsiders had to 
rent horses, they planned to "pay a silent tribute" later at the 
reviewing stand near City Hall, "to that noble and patient 
animal, for he is still with us." 

The Parade Begins 

Late in starting, the Grand Marshall "hid his blushes in 
the folds of a huge sash of yellow silk" and called to march. 
Orders had been passed down that candles not be lighted 
until commanded, but the streets were ablaze as the horse- 



66 



PRDCE55ED kUDRLD E-ODl 



men began. Fireworks filled the air and the new pavement 
hummed beneath the wheels. When the order to march 
finally came down the line, the glowing lanterns bobbed 
and weaved above the crowds. 

The children's division led with the Alpha Ladies' 
Cycling Club in their first public ride. It had taken some per- 
suasion to induce the Alphas to attend, yet the women's clubs 
were greeted with enthusiasm. The procession quickly 
stretched ten blocks and began to spUnter — "literally a sea of 
humanity."The children and a few others dropped out at 8th 
Street, but the majority of cyclists pressed on, all the while 
"good-naturedly" bombarded by Roman candles. Upwards of 
100,000 San Franciscans "watched the energetic wheelmen 
speed upon their whirling way." 

By 8th Street, the cyclists were forced to dismount and 
push their wheels through a narrow strip above the rail 
tracks as the police began to worry about the "overenthusi- 
astic crowds."The disturbance caused by the streetcars and 
the narrowness of the space available in the center of the 
street began to separate the bicyclists. 

At Market, streetcars were "so burdened, their sides, 
roof and platform sagged perceptively." The crowd filled the 
street and only a few lanterns appeared above the crowds. 
Riders had plarmed to dismount and push for three blocks to 
show "the pavement is too bad for any self-respecting wheel 
to use" but ended up pushing most of the way. 

Approaching Powell and Market, "the cyclists encoun- 
tered a surging mass of humanity." Bells of a dozen trapped 
streetcars added to the chaos. When the number 2 1 car got 
too close to one division, some in the crowd began rocking 
it, attempting to overturn it. 

Not surprisingly, some came with destructive intent, 
including, "an army of small boys fi-om the Mission who ruth- 
lessly smashed and 
stole the lanterns." 
The Chronicle report- 
ed, "They stole them 
by the score and those 
they couldn't pluck 
they smashed with 
sticks . . . others filled 
respectable spectators 
wath dismay by their 
language." 

Before the last 
cyclists had passed up 
Market Street a larg- 
er disturbance broke 
out among the spec- 
tators. "The hood- 
lums began a warfare 
upon the streetcars," 
according to the 
Chronicle. People 

PRDCESSED IlUDRLD E-DOl 



were observed pulling up the Emporium's tarred blocks 
and throwing them beneath the streetcar wheels and at the 
cars directly, breaking windows while passengers cowered 
inside. When a car stopped, they attempted to overturn it 
by rocking it and when one got away, they fell upon the 
next. 

At City Hall, both sides of Van Ness were "black with 
people ."When the firewagon finally appeared, well after 9: 30 
p.m., it was greeted by a great roar. At the grandstand in the 
gathering fog, accompanied by bursting fireworks, the crowd 
cheered as each new division straggled in. On the reviewing 
stand sat many important San Franciscans; a Senator, a 
Congressmen, several Supervisors and the fine ladies and 
gentlemen of San Francisco's southside community. 

A gigantic bonfire blazed in City Hall Square, another 
burned at Fell and Van Ness; fires glowed around the plaza. 
Behind the stage hung a huge banner lighted by the ubiqui- 
tous lanterns stating simply, "FINISH FOLSOM STREET." 
Under a festoon of lights, speeches of "varying qualities of 
oratory" received tremendous applause. 

Julius Kahn, an enthusiastic wheelman, preached good 
roads and great civilizations. Senator Perkins promised 
pavement to the Park, and lighting too. The next speaker 
claimed the bicycle had solved the age-old question that 
perplexed both Plato and Mayor Sutro, who rarely left the 
Heights in the evening: "How to get around in the world!" 

Although the disturbance at Kearny and Market was 
not completely out of character for San Francisco, the 
cyclists, to say the least, were not amused. Meeting Sunday 
after the parade, argument raged. Someone offered "Chief 
Crowley is dissembling when he declares he could not put 
enough men out for a bicycle parade when he can spare 
men enough to preserve order at a prize-fight" and a Mr. 




Wynne agreed. "They are perfectly able to be out in force 
around boxing night at the Pavilion when some 'plug-uglies' 
are engaged in battering each other." 

The final resolution declaring victory was approved 
unanimously. "The parade exceeded any similar events held 
west of Chicago and the objects of the demonstration have 
been fully accomplished and we have aroused the sympathy 
and secured the support of the well-wishers of San 
Francisco." 

They decried the inefficiency of the Police Department 
and especially condemned the Market Street Railroad 
Company's "outrageous, high-handed actions in operating 
and insolently intruding their cars into the ride, thus break- 
ing into the route and materially interfering with its suc- 
cess. 

A vote of thanks was extended to all who participated 
in the Street Department for the fine manner in which it 
had prepared the road. 

The Sunday papers estimated five thousand riders had 
taken part. The Examiner was effusive: "it was the greatest night 
the southsiders have had since the first plank road was laid 
from the city gardens into the chaparral and sand dunes where 
16th Street now stretches it's broad road ."The Call heralded 
"An Enthusiastic Outpouring of Devotees of The Wheel." 

That Sunday morning, the Examiner sent a reporter to 
Golden Gate Park to count cyclists, who had exclusive use of 
the drives. He recorded the number of women and men, 
types of wheels and clothing styles. "The men riding in the 
early morning, erect and never exceeding six miles per hour, 
wore knickerbockers, sack coats and scotch caps."These were 
"the best type of cyclist." Later, "the hard riding element 
appeared with a perceptible change in attire, their speed 
increased." The clubs followed and finally those on rented 
wheels, their garb "apparently hastily improvised." He 



observed numerous tandems. "Bloomer maids outnumbered 
their sisters in skirts 4 to 1 ."The paper pubHshed hourly fig- 
ures totaling 2,951 cyclists between 7 a.m. and 5 p.m." 

Aftermath 

Great changes took place, and swiftly. Cyclists rode in 
victory on a paved Market Street in 1898. But that victory 
would be short lived. Roads were improved at about the 
same time the bicycle lost public fascination to the automo- 
bile, and oil began to power transportation. Membership in 
the L.A.W. shpped heavily by the turn of the century. 
National bicycle sales dropped from 1 .2 million in 1899 to 
160,000 in 1909. 

The bicycle remained an important option for workers 
and businesses for decades before being redefined as a toy 
followdng World War II. Its popularity rebounded in the 
1930's and again strongly in the 1990's. In much of the 
world, it never left. Appearing between the horse and the 
automobile, the bicycle had helped define the Victorian era. 
It aided the liberation of workers (and especially women 
and children) as it changed concepts of personal freedom. 
On two wheels, individuals were free to move themselves 
across much longer distances at a greater speed than ever 
before, not dependent on horse or rail. 

The Great Protest remained unique for 101 years until, 
on another July 25th, in 1997, bicycHsts again took over 
Market Street. This time the Mayor used the police to attack 
the riders in an ill-fated attempt to "shut down" Critical 
Mass. Since then, the monthly rides have continued strong. 
Wearing its ninth birthday. Critical Mass provides an ongo- 
ing space for cyclists to assert their right to the streets, 
show their numbers, and celebrate the bicycle — in direct 
lineage from the wheelmen and wheelwomen of 1896. * 




68 



PROCESSED kUDFLD E-ODl 



NO MORE LOANS 



SIEGE OF ANGELS 



The banks are on fire 
The basement has been flooded 
Barbed wire holds me back 
The interiors everywhere 
have vanished into 
envelopes pushing angst 

The moneylenders loathe 

their positions as paranoid priests 

of the society fastly falling 

The stifling silence slips 

into public discourse on celebrities 

Some get suckered 

that there's a way to get off easy 

Now the witches are watching 

The banks are burning 

along with the billboards 

Big Banker watchdog 

no longer 

pacing panting pathetically 

sitting staring at six screens 

of numbing numbers that 

hide children's teeth and eyeglasses 

the strewn artifacts of the afterwar debris 

The avalanche is inevitable 

(no more sympathy for tyrannical speed) 

which paradigm will proliferate 

the forgotten place 

of no plastics and compulsory posing 

Watch the banks burning 

by Marjorie Sturm 



ICON BANKING 

You even speak in iconography like coins 

brass is heavy — 

paper weighs less and is worth more. 

Nothing weighs nothing, but 

the currency of your breath, the perpetual motion 

of the exchange, is worth how much? 

Money changes hands, when it changes hands. 

Anyone who really spent money like water would be 

prudent and wise 

because water's movements are dictated by its needs 

you can't sell the ocean what it doesn't want. 

Let me suggest that you are all nameless, and that 

faces and birds and rocks and places 

are diminished 

where names are denominations. 




The Angels flew over downtown this week 
under truce of the San Francisco noon. 

"Can't miss this," cooed my hair-stylist 
drawn outside his shopfront on Columbus 

into a civilian congregation 

of clients, clerks, panhandlers, lawyers 

spellbound by the sounding in the sky. 
A dull roar from the north, then a rumbling 

in the wind, dying in dry, hissing blasts. 
The lunchtime economy leaned sunward 

eyes shielded against the silicic 
architecture of the market, splendor 

blinding as blown glass, when a formation 
reflected took shape on the Bay, 

machinery flying straighter than nature, 
past the Crocker Branch, past Monkey Block 

become Transamerica Pyramid, 
a militant hallucination 

liberating hatreds of the spirit. 
(Reverend Barclay, keeper of the tongue, 

said: "I have visions fiery to burn 

the world down to purpose," prophesying 

on the rock at Point Sur, just as here, 
from the roof of BofA, a coder 

shouts to all, "Here they come!") Inspiration 
Is no less destructive than aggression, 

and aggression no less inspiring 

than a poem. Below the siege of Angels 



the Pacific yields to the surging Bay, 
meeting the Sierra aqueducts 

emptying melt from the Mokelumne 
to irrigate the spirit of the land. 



by Jim Fisher 




by Raven 
PRDCESSED LUnnLD E-ODl 



69 



The Wiggle Mural 

an interview with the artists and organizers 



The public mural movement has decorated public places in 
many corners oj San Francisco. But the Wiggle Mural, or 
as it is officially entitled:"The Duboce Bikeway Mural," 
incongruously on a 400-foot wall on the back of the nation's 
largest supermarket chain, decorates a place, celebrates a vision, 
and takes a position — well, actually it takes several. Public art 
rarely speaks in such a subtle and charming voice, while still 
packing a punch Jor anyone who spends the time to take it all in. 
The Wiggle Mural (painted in 1 998) is a welcome antidote to 
the sterile corporate planning and tepid public art increasingly 
iiflicted on us throughout a San Francisco succumbing to creeping 
monoculture. The Wiggle Mural repudiates the insipid hollowness of 
San Francisco's boosters, while staking out a vision of a radically 
improved city. Cleverly it represents and symbolically extends its own 
physical presence astride the crossroads of bicycling San Francisco. 
As it flows through the hours and along the journey from east to 
west (or west to east), it broadens our concerns to all kinds of human 
mobility (the art of moving), as well as the relation of our mobili- 
ty to the surrounding ecology. Visually and intellectually it forces us 
to re-think, altering the boundaries of our thoughts, using dimen- 
sions of self- reflection to push us beyond our own assumptions about 
what is and what could be. 

Afresh approach is offered here to the art of public murals. The 



Wiggle Mural is unique in style, scope, and integration of purpose 
with place. Splendid public artists such as Rigo and Twist and the 
Precita Eyes muralists have been joined by Mona Caron, Joel 
Pomerantz, Gordon Dean and their team. The walls of the city 
blandly and maddeningly snore, or perhaps they yammer the usual 
"buy! "and "sell!" — except in the oppositional art that leaps at us 

from surprising places. The Wiggle Mural is situated to entertain 
and edify a constituency of bicyclists, pedestrians and Muni riders, 
precisely the subjects it includes and addresses. As Joel Pomerantz 
put it, "it's our mural, it's our space." 

Long before the mural wasfinished, the space it was beginning 
to adorn was already taking on a new life as the public commons of 
cyclists and other citizens ready to embrace a different approach to 
city life. In an era when market relations increasingly throw us as 
isolated shoppers into malls and other zones of hyper-accelerated, 
transaction-oriented behavior, the re-emergence of new areas of 
public commons is heartening indeed. 

The Duboce Bikeway is a beachhead in a long, slow battle to 
transform San Francisco into a city really worth living in — not just 

for the affuent, but for everyone. Every inch of territory we can take 
away from the banal daily descent into life as targeted markets helps 
restore our humanity a bit. 

— Chris Carlsson 





70 



PROCESSED kUDRLQ E-ODl 



Chris Carlsson (CC): This mural is uniquely situated in a 
physical location that's linked to a community, AND as an 
urban space, many communities pass through it in different 
ways, some on are on streetcars, some are pushing shop- 
ping carts, some are getting a clean needle, some of them 
are just walking by on the way home with a bag of gro- 
ceries. All of these individuals pass through YOUR hves as 
artists, as human beings. In that fascinating area are politics, 
and very specific human relations. As the artists and pro- 
moters of this project, what is your sense of the relationship 
of this project to communities? 

Mona Caron (MC): You gave a good cross-section of the 
diverse communities that pass through Duboce Street, the 
location of the mural. What they have in common is their 
transience. The only part of the population "in transit" that 
never passes through this street are car drivers. From the 
vantage point of someone in a car, this section of Duboce 
Street looks like a gutter, barely a street, if it is noticed at 
all. It is of no use to them as they drive by. 

The official purpose of the mural is to celebrate the 
opening of this stretch of Duboce street as a two-way bike 
path. It is a huge mural, 360 feet long and 2 stories high, 
and to car drivers this project might seem out of propor- 
tion with the space to which it is dedicated, since its 
square footage exceeds that of the street it celebrates. (I 
got several comments to the effect of: "too bad the proj- 
ect is in such a bad location") . On the contrary, it is a great 
location, thanks to the absence of car traffic! 

It was the primary goal of my concept for this mural 
to illustrate the importance of this street to all the other 
communities. I tried to do it by depicting the street itself 
in the painting in context with the rest of the city and the 
rest of our lives, within a sort of panoramic continuum 
from the east to the west of the City. This isn't arbitrary, 
because the mural shows the actual path a bicycHst takes 
to get from anywhere downtown to anywhere west in the 
city. A bicyclist going west who wants to avoid the hills, 
necessarily goes through the Wiggle, usually starting with 
this particular little stretch of Duboce Street. 

Joel Pomerantz (JP): The first time that I had an overall 
perspective about the role of the community and the role 
of the mural in the community was the first day that I 
stayed until dusk during the summer. We left at different 
times everyday, and rarely stayed past 5 or 5:30, because 
the sun would come into view on the wall, and highlight 
all the bumps. It was also starting to get really windy. One 
day it wasn't windy at all, so everyone left and I stayed. I 
just sat on the stoop of our paint wagon and watched as 
the sun went down behind and reflected off the windows 
on the hills in the East Bay. I was sitting there contem- 
plating what a beautiful spot it must have been before all 
the buildings were there, when I started to notice more 
and more cyclists going by fi-om downtown. Maybe one 
out of ten would be someone I knew. About half of them 



would wave or just ring their bell, or somehow acknowl- 
edge my presence there, at least partly because they knew 
I was connected with the mural. More and more of the 
people I knew started showing up and talking with each 
other. We were creating a place for people to meet each 
other and exchange ideas, and use the public space, the 
street, as a kind of a market place. The ideas were flowing 
back and forth between that space and the Bike Coalition 
office through a corridor of bicycles going back and forth 
doing errands. During that hour and a half period of time 
all kinds of stuff happened, leaflets were exchanged, 
newsletters were brought, people were asking other peo- 
ple to come and meet them there. It just happened to 
happen, on a beautiful day with no wind. 

MCiYeah, it definitely became more and more of a forum, 
an agora, especially for bike commuters who were coming 
fi-om downtown. Sometimes there were as many 1 5 or 20 
people spontaneously stopping and chatting. 

The whole mural project gave me an opportunity to 
get to really know other communities, not only bicyclists, 
but also neighbors, the homeless people hving there, and 
other nomadic people, like young punks, etc. As the proj- 
ect progressed, I started getting there earlier and earlier 
in the morning, and staying later and later in the evenings, 
coming across a greater range of people. 

CC: What were your longest days? Dawn to dusk? 

MC: Yeah, pretty much, especially when the windy season 
was over, and in the last month. It was also a part-time 
street cleaning job. I found myself trying to read what had 
gone on in the street during the night from the traces left 
behind, trying to decode these signs. The most unpleasant 
were human feces and puke and things hke that, but there 
were other ones too. Signs were left on the wall. No tags 
or graffiti, amazingly, but every once in a while somebody 
would scratch the wall in a way that looked deliberate, 
and we would wonder if this was some sort of feedback, 
some sort of communication, maybe not even voluntary. 
That was a very interesting experience. It's ironic because 
part of the mural shows how a bicyclist gets to see the 
land she treads close-up. That concept is represented sym- 
bohcally by the extreme close-up of the beach area and 
the trace of the bike tire in the sand mingling with the 
footprints of the insects and animals. Interestingly for me, 
while I was painting this rather poetic example of looking 
at the ground, I got to experience a detailed look at that 
stretch of Duboce Street, one that wasn't quite as poetic, 
as I told you. I like the fact that that happened: in a sense, 
I took my own advice. 

CC: What did you discover about the community of people 
living in and around the mural site? 

MC: The homeless people were the people I started my 
days with. In the later months of the project there 'd be 
over a dozen people sleeping around the storage bin when 
I got there in the morning. I estabUshed a rapport with 



PF^DCESSED kUDRLD E.QDl 



71 



some of the regulars, while others I tried to avoid. As time 
went on, my involvement with them changed in various 
ways: Some of the truly schizophrenic people I was scared 
of in the beginning turned out to be surprisingly normal 
and helpful when addressed directly. Other people I 
thought were harmless turned out to be untrustworthy. 
But I got to really care about a few of them. One example 
was Rick, who eventually disappeared, and it still bothers 
me that I don't know what happened to him. He had built 
a shack behind our storage bin, one wall was made up of 
a door on the side of which was written "It ain't the 
Ponderosa, but it's Home Sweet Home." I had a few long 
chats with him, some about his amazing life, some about 
the mural. The guy had a great sense of humor. 

One time, he came to me and said "Mona! OK so here's 
the way I see it." And he proceeded to give me a meticulous 
and creative interpretation of the mural in the form of a 
story. It was hilarious, and actually a veiled criticism. The 
jist of his story was that a giant alien (the Burning Man I had 
painted instead of the Sutro tower) had taken over the city, 
the big bicyclist in the west end being the last one to flee 
town. I understood his message, which was about the city 
looking too deserted and sterile, and I worked harder after 
that at making the picture look more alive. 




Mona Caron painting the mural 



photos by Tristan Savatler 




72 



CC: Was that the only example of an unexpected crossover 
between one community and another there? I mean, 
sometimes you see homeless folks with a shopping cart 
full of bikes! 

JP: Eddie B. and Brenda frequently did stuff for us. I'm 
pretty sure they're the ones who brought us that beautiful 
Turkish rug, and three different chairs at three different 
times, and generally did us a lot of good turns, including 
reporting a guy who had stolen a bunch of stuff from our 
bags. 

CC: They would have probably been that way regardless of 
the subject of your mural, no? 

MC: The subject of the mural had absolutely no influence 
on our interaction with the homeless. The bicyclists' con- 
cerns are about as far from their more basic and fimda- 
mental ones as, say, Botticelli's Primavera. Rather, the fact 
in itself that we were painting a mural, therefore occupy- 
ing the space for a reason that is not utilitarian nor com- 
mercial, that did influence the way they interacted with us 
a great deal . I remember the guy who returned some stuff 
he stole from us, saying: "I didn't know you guys were 
artists!". And Eddie and Brenda, the homeless couple 
forcing a cash donation on us. Another crazy guy solicit- 
ing donations for us from passersby. Others helping us 
clean the street... Lots of other anecdotes spoke of the 
fact that people working on public art are much less alien- 
ating to them than people working a "real" job, especially 
if such jobs make them, in their eyes, representatives of 
authority or of private property or of class differences. 

CC: Communities are something you forge in the practice 
of relating on that day-to-day basis. Anybody can connect 
in that form, it doesn't matter what your background is. 
That's why urban street spaces are so interesting to me, 
because they bring people together who normally would 
not cross each other's paths, but if they do and something 
stops them — that's where you guys come in, you've cre- 
ated something to stop them . 

Gordon Dean (GD): That's the difference between my 
experience painting there and other experiences I've had 
on the street. Usually I'm trying to get somewhere, and 
so I'm riding my bike and I'm avoiding traffic. Here I was 
planted in one place for a long period of time. You saw 
things pass by you. It's just a very different view. 

CC:You talk about other groups of people, other individu- 
als, not particularly painters, coming there, finding their 
reason to stop, and actually forming new kinds of rela- 
tionships, or maybe taking new initiatives based on having 
discovered each other there in that space? I would assume 
that the latter woulAlargely arise among bicyclists? 

JP: Lots of it was non-bicychsts.The descriptive details of the 
mural attracted people giving their friends and out-of-town 
visitors walking tours of the wall, even before it was done. 
The mural really did spark a new sense of what that part of 
towTi is for. People told us that they had changed their com- 

PRDCESSEE] LUDRLD 5.DD1 




Some of the imagery in the flying machines is the imagery of early flight, which was always pedal-powered and bicycle- 
related. The downtown part of the mural is an exaggerated representation of reality. You can see a horrible traffic jam hap- 
pening here. It's six o'clock and Critical Mass is starting, and there's something strange that's happening. Some of the bicyclists 
are taking off, on strange contraptions and flying machines. They're all lifting up and flying around in the air Each one is trailing 
a yellow banner These people represent the dreamers of the city, the Utopians, the people who have an idea of what reality 
could be like. That's what the yellow banner symbolizes. One huge yellow banner turns into the rest of the mural, meaning 
this is one of the possible ideas of how the city could be. We take a close-up of one of these banners — one of these Utopias — 
and we discover a representation of a very realistic and plausible Utopia. 



mute route to come past there, or they had gotten off the 
Muni train even though that wasn't their destination, or 
that they had purposely walked around the back of the 
Safeway instead of the front while they were going home 
with their groceries. 
GD: A couple of people at the unveiling, and others there- 
after, talked to me about how the mural changed their 
experience of the Wiggle and that stretch of Duboce 
street in particular, which used to be a creepy place .They 
said that now they feel they're arriving in their neighbor- 
hood, or they've left work and they're coming home 
when they pass this threshold. It's a fun place to be. That 
was very gratifying for me to hear from other people, 
because I was having that feeling myself. 

Origins 

(JP): I coordinated this project, the Duboce Bikeway Mural. 
The SF Bicycle Coalition was invited by the city of San 
Francisco to paint this mural. We've been working at it for 
about three years, wdth the last five months being painting. 

PPiDCESSED kUDRLD E.ODl 



Peter Tannen works for the city as the unpaid staff person 
on bicycle programs, and he had the idea. Peter got a grant 
from the federal government that had something to do with 
disruption of urban blight or something hilarious. He came 
to us and said, "We have the money, we need someone to 
coordinate it. We thought the Bicycle Coalition would be a 
good source for that labor." I of course leapt at the oppor- 
timity. Naively I thought there 'd be a lot of competition for 
the job but it was just me. I had to raise whatever money I 
could for the project, and what I did raise was about 
$ 1 2,000 in donations from individuals, local businesses and 
foundations. Half the money, about $15,000, was already 
there, and that was the money we were allowed to use on 
materials such as paint, which is very expensive. 

CC: What is the message of the mural? 

JP: We've always hesitated on that one. There are three or 
four messages in the mural. The first message of the mural 
was that it can be and should be a plea.sant, in fact, a joy- 
ful experience, to go across the city, by bicycle or walking 



73 



or any other means. The second is that the bicycle is part 
of the natural setting and part of the urban setting, and it's 
got a low impact on the natural environment, so it's a 
vehicle and a machine that represents the connection 
between the urban struggle and the natural balance. The 
third message has to do with the flowing nature of the 
bike ride through the city and the connection between 
that and this geographic location. Because this is the spot 
where a creek used to flow and it's flat. People bicycle 
here to avoid the hills, and that represents one of the main 
issues of bicycling in San Francisco, hence our flowing 
design. The fourth message came along towards the end of 
our process, after a tour of the Coit Tower murals. 

MC: Those murals inspired us to add a more polemic polit- 
ical edge to the east part of the mural. 

GD: That was one of the funnest moments of the whole 
project. The same night after visiting Coit Tower, Mona 
and Bill Stender and I had a couple of hours of brain- 
storming at a cafe in the course of which we fleshed out 
this idea. We wanted to tie up some loose ends and give a 
little bit more political symbolism to the mural. It had a 
lot to do with adding in the traffic jam in the area depict- 
ing downtown and making it into something that's sup- 
posed to show the here and now, while turning the rest of 
the mural symbolically into a future than can be. 

MC: We basically decided to add some imagery of contrast 
and negation to the rest of the mural. A bit of dystopia to 
enhance the Utopia. While working on the sketches for 
this mural I went through many versions, going back and 
forth between a design showing only an ideal city and one 
which showed contrast. This being a bike and ecology- 
centered mural, the contrast was to show car traffic and 
pollution. At the time (1997) Critical Mass was very 
much talked about and bicycling was always on the front 
page of the news. As usual, the media tended to reduce 
the meaning of the struggle to a mindless "bikes vs. cars" 
issue. That made me feel even stronger about wanting to 
avoid shallow and preachy "good versus bad" moralistic 
themes in the mural. I don't believe that bicycling is supe- 
rior to other alternatives to the car. The point we're try- 
ing to make is, Hke Critical Mass, much broader: It's about 
a vision of the city as a moveable feast, rather than a park- 
ing lot. When the last sketch was done, there were no cars 
in it. I decided to turn the whole thing into a depiction of 
the city that holds together harmoniously — you shouldn't 
even notice the absence of cars. That was a soft way of 
making that statement. 

But after seeing the Coit tower murals, we saw the 
advantage of dramatic tension stemming from the nega- 
tive reinforcing the positive. We decided to turn that east- 
ern section of the wall into an unrealistic depiction of 
reality so that the rest of it could be a very realistic look- 
ing representation of Utopia. 

CC: Why do you suppose that so many of us have decided at 



this time to give pohtical meaning vis-a-vis commimity and 
social interaction to the bicycle and not to the bus, where 
we're all sitting next to each other and could easily have 
conversations and have new social experiences? 
MC: When I ride a bicycle I mostly connect with other 
bicyclists. Taking the bus, or public transportation, is 
more conducive to exposing oneself to the rest of society. 
When I take the bus, there is a wader cross -section of 
society that I encoxmter. 

Democracy and Collaboration 

JP: I wonder how the two of you felt about collaborating 
with three different groups: the artists who became the 
art team; the collaboration with those who were less 
skilled, or had less time; and the collaboration with the 
community, the people who were putting demands on 
you or were asking questions of you, or were commis- 
sioning you to do the project? 

GD: I'll start out on the negative side. I found it difficult to 
work with volxmteers with whom I didn't share a certain 
vocabulary. I'm talking about people who didn't consider 
themselves artists, but wanted to help paint. I know that 
there were ways they could help, and I felt it was important 
for them to participate, for the sake of the project, partly to 
get it done, and partly to have more people involved with 
it. At the same time, it was really fi-ustrating, because some- 
times I felt like I was having to teach art class at the same 
time I was just asking somebody to do something. 

MC: When that happened to me, sometimes I was nervous 
but often I found it interesting. I was very conscious that I 
was teaching basic principles of how to render, how to 
paint. I took the opportunity to test out how it would be to 
be a teacher, because that's something that I've considered. 

CC: How was it with people who were easier to work with? 
A lot of times there's a sense that you as the people on the 
top of the heap have to make your volunteers feel good 
about their participation. That's a job! 

JP: We had a turning point where 1 explained to Mona, that 
I was no longer wdlling to occupy volunteers. In other 
words, tell volunteers that 'I'm sorry, but we don't have 
anything for you to do.' Until that point we were trying to 
strike a balance where we would find the right job for the 
right volunteer. Many of the jobs would require very Httle 
skill, but we got to a point where we didn't have unskilled 
jobs for painters anymore. (Of course everyone wanted to 
paint.) Jobs like cleaning up the street after the Htter had 
accumulated during the night, or helping reorganize or re- 
store the paints — those jobs were really not very coveted. 

MC: What makes it a community project? It's often called 
a community mural because everybody in the community 
participates democratically. Each person has their own 
thing they want to put in the mural, and they each do it in 
their own style and in their own way. The result from that 
is often very fun and colorful and very interesting. But 



74 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDI 



that is not the style that we wanted to have. I agonized 
about this fact a lot, because having decided on a unified 
design and style, carrying it out meant that I was kind of 
the dictator, saying how things were going to be done, etc. 
This was often very hard and made me feel very guilty. I 
felt how undemocratic this process was. There was a hier- 
archy — me and the art team directing the other people. 

CC: Wouldn't you argue that 'real art' requires that kind of 
specificity of vision? 

MC: 'Real art?' See, I don't beheve in this distinction. I 
think the community mural made by children is just as 
much real art as this is. It's about a conscious decision 
about what exactly you want to achieve, and what kind of 
technique is required to accomplish that, and what kind of 
skill this technique requires. It turned out to be a com- 
munity mural because a lot of people got involved. 
During the design, Joel organized brainstorming sessions 
with whoever was interested. People's suggestions and 
requests while we were painting were taken into consid- 
eration, and sometimes directly incorporated into the 
design. Lots of volunteers got to help, but not with every- 
thing, and not democratically. But also there's a lot of 
other communities that got to participate in other ways. 



All the communities that we talked about before, the 
homeless folks, the support of the neighbors, and the 
input that I got from them, led to a lot of details that I 
hadn't thought of before. They were like requests. 

CC: Are you drawing a distinction between an open, inter- 
active and consultative process as opposed to a formal 
democracy? 

MC: Yes, it was more of the former, not very much of the 
latter. I still remember one time a group of developmen- 
tally disabled people came down and said "oh, we're part 
of the community and we'd like to help paint." I thought, 
gosh, it would be great, but then I also panicked at the 
same time because some of these people didn't have very 
good coordination, even just for simple tasks. I think we 
could 've done a really beautiful abstract painting with 
them, but not what we were doing. 

JP: I think we did really well. For example, there were a num- 
ber of times when people decided themselves that their 
skills had run out eind they'd better stop painting. I did my 
best to foster that. Many people leapt into the fray and were 
as enthusiastic as could be and did more than their skills 
allowed them to do. Josh said, "My ability to contribute to 
this mural has come to an end," now that we're on to the 




The Wiggle goes from Duboce Street up to the Haight, zig-zagging through the lower Haight. The Wiggle is represented 
as flowing water because the flattest route that bicyclists naturally take is also the lowest route where water naturally collects. 
There used to be a creek here under the Wiggle. The water ends up in the sewer grate because that's where the creek actu- 
ally is today. The Wiggle here, the creek, becomes a bike path. The Victorians are more colorful than they are in reality, 
because we wanted to represent the diversity of our community, not just in terms of ethnicity, but also in terms of ideolo- 
gy. The yellow house is a Buddhist house. There's another house that is also slightly golden color which is a North African 
color scheme. The corner house is red, the Commie house, with a Cuban flag in the window, and so on. 



PRDCESSED kUDPiLD E-DDl 



75 



more skilled tasks. Well, that's great, that's a realistic way to 
include the community without breaking the standjird that 
Mona was setting. 

MC: The kind of design we had decided to do had to be done 
meticulously: in no other way would the transitions have 
had the land oi trompe I'oeil effect they were supposed to. If 
those effects hadn't worked, the whole thing would have 
flattened and looked like the paint-by-number piece we 
were trying to avoid. Fortunately, many people that were 
initially kind of skeptical actually reacted very enthusiasti- 
cally when the first details were up and looked so 3D. If we 
look at the inclusion that this high-skill level provoked, 
rather than at the exclusion it provoked, we have various 
beautiful examples of people who got involved who had a 
special high skill that they got to display in this mural. For 
instance, Bill Stender, he has a sign shop, and mostly works 
with computers. 

JP: We needed a lot of signage, we needed a lot of text in 
certain areas, and we needed the tools of the signmaker's 
trade. 

MC: He's a super skilled letterer and a sign painter. It's 
something that he loved to do and actually missed from 
his real work. To sum it up, some people were perhaps 
excluded, but we opened the doors to a lot of people with 
incredible talents that never get to express them. 

CC: That undercuts the notion that this was exclusive. 
There's a certain level of expertise required for certain 
results, whether it's brain surgery or a beautiful lizard or 
whatever it may be. 

GD: Two hypothetical examples: One where you create a 
design, each person has a square in a grid. The people from 
the community come and do their thing in their individual 
square. Now, everybody has done their thing fully, it's 
there, but they don't necessarily relate to each other. There 
might be some really powerful energy that comes from all 
these things that weren't really meant to go together, and 
suddenly being together, POW! There it is. Another way of 
doing things is to come up with a design out of one person's 
brain, then brainstorming among a group of people to build 
on it, but there's a unity to it. You find people to cooperate 
with each other and take advantage of their best skills in 
order to create this unified image. I think we were trying to 
create a unified image, and we were trying to find the right 
people to do it. 

MC: I don't think that our way is necessarily better than 
other ways. That's why I really liked Gordon's description 
just now. I think the situation with all the discrete squares 
is often extremely powerful. Whether you like it or not, 
depends on your own personal aesthetic preferences, but 
it is just as much art as another approach. The difference 
is that because of our own aesthetic preferences we chose 
to do it this way. 

CC: I've dealt with this in a different context, namely polit- 
ical collectives. The question of formal democracy versus 



this kind of amorphous way of participating. TTie tendency 
is for the people who play the role of the planner, the man- 
ager or the visionary, or whatever it might be, often 
become subject to the same tension that you felt when you 
had to tell someone 'no, not like that, like this.' There's a 
vision and you know what it's going to take to get it there, 
and other people are participating in various ways. If they 
have equal power to you, in a moment of decision about 
something as crucial as the scope of the whole project, 
unless they are as well informed as you or have the same 
aesthetic skills, they can't play that role. Then the accusa- 
tions come that you're being authoritarian. 

JP: The purpose of the democratic decision-making struc- 
ture is to ensure that people don't abuse their power. If 
you're lucky enough to have a group that works well 
together, or a person that knows how to make people see 
their importance to the project and feel good about it, or 
some other way of making sure that democracy happens, 
then you don't have to have the democracy enforcing 
structure because democratic structure just means a 
democracy enforcing structure. Whereas a democratic 
system, an organic democratic process often doesn't have 
a democratic structure, it just IS democracy. 

CC: Exactlv. 

JP: I object to the idea that each person contributed their 
expertise, because one of the things that was possible on 
this project was to learn. Many people became experts or 
became good enough to contribute through the process. 
I'm thinking in particular of Seth Damm. He had many 
things that he was already good at and he contributed those. 
But additionally he tried some new things that were com- 
pletely out of his range, and he mastered them. He figured 
out how to tackle the problem, of, for instance, the hidden 
lettering in the water of the wiggle creek. It took him three 
or four different versions before he had something he was 
satisfied with. He came to me and told me that the break- 
through came one day when someone suggested to him to 
think of letters ON the water, rather than IN the water. So 
there was a lot of learning like that, not just the skilled peo- 
ple on the art team, but many different people. 

GD: It was one helluva great introduction to the bicycling 
community. 

JP: It changed my role in the bike community that I was 
already connected with. It put Mona suddenly into the 
position of being connected to a community that she had 
no previous connection with. Gordon was like a combi- 
nation of the tw^o. He was already somewhat involved in 
the bike community before he started painting. 

GD: I was already a bike commuter, but I wasn't involved 
with the bike community. 

JP: Whereas Mona didn't even have a bicycle. 

MC: Uh oh, now it's on tape, they'll want to erase the whole 
mural! T 



76 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E.OOl 



ill 



« 



Wall Street West All Tied Up! 

An Art Attack by the Department of Public Art, June 1 8, 1 999, San Francisco 



n 




On June 1 8, 1 999, as part of a global day of action against capitalism, 4lRl^^& 
Department of Public Art struck at high noon on Montgomery between California 
and Pine streets, in the middle of San Francisco's Financial District. In 90 seconds 
several rolls of caution tape and 170 neckties were quietly swaying in the suddenly 
emptied street. "Wall Street West" was "All Tied Up!" 





m. f*- 



PPiDCESSED lUDRLD E-DDl 



77 



The Billboard Liberators 



The Billboard Liberation Front (B.L.F.) always 
seems to attract inquiries as to our motivations; 
how we see our place (if einy) in relation to vari- 
ous art "movements"; why we "hate" and want to attack 
advertisers and corporations. 

Firstly, our little group has had well over two hundred 
people involved since its inception. Every single one of 
them is an individual with very individual beliefs, opinions 
and politics. Motivations in this ongoing parade of lunatics, 
anarchists and Republicans are typically in the direction of 
the refrigerator and the next can o' beer. Specific billboard 
improvements are generally chosen contingent upon 
caprice and serendipity. Of course, it's also necessary for 
the idea person to coerce, cajole, plead, threaten and do 
whatever else it takes to motivate the rest of us to tear our- 
selves away from our favorite computer games and TV 
shows long enough to plan and execute a successful "hit." 

Secondly we are not part of a movement unless it be as 
Blank DeCoverly so evocatively put it: "that most truly demo- 
cratic of all human fellowships: The Bowel Movement." We are 
certainly aware of many of the fine artistic cabals of this Cen- 
tury. My associates doubtlessly hold a variety of opinions about 
these groups and the many individuals that comprised them. 

I can only speak for myself: I have been personally 
impressed and influenced by the fine marksmanship (and 
plays) of Alfred Jarry, the stout pugilism (and drawings) of 
George Grosz, the heroic drinking (and stories) of Charles 
Bukowsld, the impressive sex life (and stories) of Henry 
Miller, the world wide gallivanting (and photos) of 
Margaret Bourke-White. 

Altering billboards is an activity requiring total engage- 
ment of the senses. You are doing something NOW. It's dan- 
gerous, exhilarating, a little stupid and entirely alive. It's a 
PRANK, it's a joke; you can thumb your 
nose at the wonderful institutions that 
control us. You are completely alive when 
you're at it. However, as a politically rev- 
olutionary concept (in the sense of making 
the world a more fair or livable place for 
the most people) altering ad messages is 
not important in the least. If "billboard 
banditry" actually challenged the corpora- 
tions control over their markets ($) they 
would track down each and every one of 
us and kill us like dogs. A really good 
improved board might get a few people 
laughing at Exxon or R.J. Reynolds or the 
Government but we will continue to pay 
our taxes, drink Coke and watch Survivor. 

Art? I don't think so. Only an idiot 




illboard Liberation Front publicity still 



could think any of our work is art. Our friend and associate, 
the prolific billboard hacker, Ron English is an ARTIST: a tal- 
ented painter who discovered a clever way to display his 
work when the commodity exchanges that are galleries 
refused to show him. There are a few other serious artists that 
do billboards but for the most part billboard "artists" are 
pranksters. 

Thirdly I would like to once and for all clarify the BLF 
stance on our corporate benefactors and clients. Almost all 
of the active members of the BLF and many of the past 
members are employed by or contract with large corpora- 
tions. Show me an American who will give up toilet paper 
for the rest of his/her Hfe in order to save the life of an 
unseen /unknown infant in Mozambique or to stop the clear 
cutting of a virgin forest and I'll show you either a saint or 
an idealistic middle /upper middle class white kid who will 
renege on the deal before they turn thirty. Corporations 
and the attendant commodification of everything are a fact 
of life (unless you're hypersensitive to a fault and rich 
enough to isolate yourself from the daily commercial 
grind). Until the emerging corporate oligarchy that has 
replaced monarchies, nationaUst based imperialism and 
state sponsored socialism is in turn replaced by a new 
(hopefully not worse) form of collective bondage of the 
human mind and spirit, it's the only game in town. 

For an individual or small group to pose any real threat 
to this dominant form of Control is to ask to be destroyed. 
You can make fun of them as long as you don't threaten 
their money. Keeping your individual spirit and sense of 
humor despite this overwhelming oppression is about the 
best thing you can hope for. Sharing this humor with others 
is a prank and, short of actually helping people less fortu- 
nate than you or upfifting the human spirit through the cre- 
ation of genuine art, pranking is humanity's highest calling. 
We at the BLF say: Prank Em. 

The Invoice is in the Mail! 

The service we at the BLF have pro- 
vided for advertisers and their cUents is 
one that we can no longer allow to go 
undervalued. The logic of advertising dic- 
tates that any product placement or trade- 
mark exposure whatsoever (whether posi- 
tively or negatively defining the product) 
actually results in moving more product 
units. This concept, still a radical one for 
the average citizen, has been a well-known 
tact to the marketing professional for 
years. Plymouth Neon ads a few years 
back made this clear by using the "look" of 
graffiti over their billboards. 



78 



PRDCESSEEJ LUDRLD E-ODl 




Billboard Liberation Front 

At the BLF we realize that no matter how our work is 
perceived or judged by any observers based on aesthetic, 
political or social considerations, the fact is that anytime we 
improve a billboard it brings more attention to the original 
product campaign and by consequence sells more of that 
product. The language of advertising has taken its place as the 
language of our culture, trivializing eind/or supplanting our 
previous modes of communication through language. 
America's Best Home Video's, Cops, Jerrysallygeraldopra 
Springer and all the other TV ad placement formats have car- 
ried out Andy Warhol's proclamation that everyone would be 
famous for 1 S minutes. All that's left now is that everyone 
must advertise. We at the BLF are trying to stay a bit ahead of 
this emerging trend by actually charging for our ads. We've 
begun back charging and invoicing our corporate clients, 
Apple, R.J. Reynolds, etc. for improving their existing ads. 
It's obvious that advertising is the only way to enter the new 
millennium. If you can't sell yourself what can you sell? 
— jack Napier Z 

Brief History of the BLF 

Irving Glikk and I planned the first improvement campaign for "Fact" ciga- 
rettes. We made nine paste ups and installed six on boards all around San 
Francisco on Christmas day 1977. We were nearly apprehended on the 




California Department of Corrections 



sixth board (on the comer of Mission & Army Sts. Our associates on this 
first project were Steve Johnson (not a real name), Cecily Joland, Igor 
Pflicht and Robert C . 

Simon Wagstaff, a friend who worked in journalism, became our press agent 
and introduced me to the much larger possibilities of communicating our 
advertising efforts through the media. 

Arnold Fleck, Walid Rasheed, Mimi Bathory and others signed on for bill- 
board work through about 1981. After the Marlboro campaign these 
three formed the splinter group: "Billboard Movement" (BM). 

We went into semi-retirement in the mid- eighties returning in 1989 to help 
Exxon Corporation with a little copywriting. 

Walid Rasheed rejoined in 1990 and initiated the "America" board that 
graced the cover of the S.F. Bay Guardian (after we kidnapped the editor, 
Tim Redmond at gunpoint and got him really drunk). 

Harry Turtle, Weaso, Dogboy, Ethyll Ketone, L.L. Fauntleroy, Mabel 
Longhetti, Jason Voorhees, John Thomas, Sarah Conner, Timothy Liddy 
and others joined up in the early 90's as we launched campaigns support- 
ing Plymouth, Zenith, R.J. Reynolds, Exxon and other fine corporate 
benefactors. 

In 1 994 Blank Decoverly signed on as Minister of Propaganda vastly improv- 
ing our media outreach. He expanded and improved our policy of maxi- 
mum saturation for minimum effort. The actual BLF output (never very 
great by the standards of say, Ron English) has always seemed much more 
substantial due to our successful media efforts. From our very first "hit" we 
have often done extensive outreach (press releases, phone calls to 
reporters, coercion, promises, threats) in order to maximize the visibility 
and impact of our work. From the Plymouth Neon hit in 1994 on. Blank 

has seen to it that we get way more attention than 

we deserve! 

Conrad Hoc signed on in 1998 as our Web Master. 
His efforts in further publicizing our work on the 
net began with the relatively new concept of e- 
releases, immediately exposing our most recent 
work. Conrad's work culminated in our handsome 
and much visited web site: 

< bilIboardliberation.com > . 

A new generation of climbers and copywriters has 
helped us to maintain public visibility into the 
new millennium. Self-styled BLF "webslave" Erich 
Weiss has taken over the bulk of webmaster 
Conrad Hoe's work. Climbers C.J. DeSoda, Salty 
Dog and Dick the Dark Lord have stepped in 
quite effectively in the field installation depart- 
ment. There are dozens of others who have 
helped us over the years. Most of them are noted 
in the "Personnel" section of our website. 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DOl 



79 




Joe Camel Never Saw What Hit Him! 



Some BLF hits actually involved a 
lot of planning, technically involved 
installation and comprehensive securi- 
ty. The Joe Camel board done in 1 995 
is a good example of our work taken 
to its most extreme level of involve- 
ment. 

This operation took place during 
the middle of a weekday on a large 
board hanging above a donut shop 
parking lot alongside a well-traveled 
industrial highway. There were two on 
the board: B.L.F. tech expert Winslow 
Leech, and myself. L.L. Fauntleroy had 
radio position one, with a view of sev- 
eral hundred yards to the north and 
south. Sarah Conner was along the 
freeway to the west and John Thomas 
(dressed as a bum with his radio in a 
brown paper bag) was high up on a 
pedestrian overpass commanding a 
view all around. 

The board was composed of a 
large set of self-contained neon letters 
reading: "CAMEL" and "Genuine Taste"; 
a fifteen by fifteen foot light box, back 
lit with fluorescent lamps, with a 
stretched, translucent canvas face with 
Joe Camel's leering visage displayed; a 
blue white neon border and a faux 
brick painted background. Winslow 
and I backed our van up to the board, 
lay a ladder onto the lower board lad- 
der and proceeded to hump our sup- 
plies and tools up onto the platform 
above. To the entirely oblivious general 



public (including the S.F cop that 
stopped for a donut and parked briefly 
below us) we were exactly what we 
looked like: a sign crew in the middle of 
a commercial job. 

In order to improve this Camel 
board we first simply turned off the dis- 
connect switches on the letters "C" & 
"E" and the words: "Genuine Taste". 
We placed an opaque covering over the 
seraphed lower stem of the letter "L' 
making it into an "I". We opened the 
electrical panel on the back of the 
board and wired in a UL, NECA 
approved GFI electrical outlet. This 
electrical installation (a four hundred- 
dollar value!) was a permanent and legal 
improvement, allowing anyone coming 
after us to simply plug in any power 
tools they might require or perhaps a 
radio (to make the days work more 
pleasant). We used the new receptacle 
to plug in the two self-contained fifteen 
thousand-volt neon transformers we 
brought along in order to power the 
two new neon embellishments we had 
prepared for old Joe Camel. Once the 
wiring was done, we installed the new 
neon. The lettering: "Dead Yet?" was 
carefully tied onto the existing letters, 
"Genuine Taste". We hauled up the six- 
foot diameter red neon skull on a clear 
lexan (plastic) sheet. We tied off the 
skull directly over Joe's smiling face. 

We were in touch with our securi- 
ty team by radio the entire time. At 



one point they had us ditch while they 
checked out a fellow in a van who 
seemed to be taking an interest in our 
work. It was a false alarm. 

The installation was well docu- 
mented; there were two journalists on 
the ground photographing (Nicole 
Rosenthal) and taking notes (Brad 
Wieners). We had made a deal with 
them. They set up on a traffic island 
squarely in the middle of a busy street 
about two hundred feet away. Half 
way between them and the board was 
an attractive, scantily clad model pos- 
ing up a storm. To any passer-by, they 
quite obviously were in the middle of a 
fashion photo shoot using an industrial 
cityscape as their backdrop, a sight not 
at all uncommon in San Francisco. 
Only the most Sherlockian of citizens 
might notice the camera was aimed 
just slightly above the model and to 
the left. 

Our work finally finished, Winslow 
and I deposited a twelve pack of good 
beer and a note carefully detailing for 
the sign men how to completely 
restore the board to its original config- 
uration. San Francisco, being such a 
small town, we eventually ran into a 
friend of a friend who knew one of the 
billboard company workers. The 
worker salvaged the neon skull for his 
garage, kept the note and (we assume) 
drank the beer. 

-J-N. 



80 



PPiDCESSED kUDRLD 2-ODl 



TALE OF TOIL 



Notes from an Outstanding Day at Image 



By Texas Frank 

My symptoms were typical of the condition. 
Young, well educated, several months arrived 
in New York from a collegiate turn in the hb- 
eral Midwest, I hungered for a job, a paycheck. 

In my fevered mind, the need for fulfilling work was 
falling to the fear of unemployment. 

I found myself back at the offices of Image Advertising 
Inc., patiently waiting for my "Day of Observation". 

I considered the pertinent questions: How could I Uve 
with myself, having to tell people that I was in advertising? 
Ccin I go into this as a subversive? Do I have the wherewith- 
al? Can I really bring a place dovm? Or would I simply sell 
out, doing a job to the best of my abihty because that's the 
way you're supposed to do things? Still, at a promised 48 
grand a year, selling out might well be an option. I sat still, 
musing on that figure. 48 thousand dollars is no small car- 
rot. Again, I had the standard symptoms. I even held back 
the desire to openly mock the man with the thick cologne 
and thin earring, Michael, the man who interviewed me last 
week wearing an orange day-glo sweatshirt under a black 
corduroy sportcoat. 

At this point, it is importcint to mention Def Leppard, 
whose music shook the floor from the next room, the room 
that I recognized from my interview as the nightclub that 
plays the hits at three in the afternoon. I wondered what 
kind of meeting could be had over 300 decibels of "Pour 
Some Sugar on Me." 

Finally, the music stopped, and a dozen youthful folk 
streamed out of the "conferenceroom." It occurred to me 
that Def Leppard had never released a live album, that the 
whoops and cheers I heard were the sum of the ungraceful 
enthusiasm of the employees of 

Image Advertising. But at least they seemed to have 
enthusiasm, excitement. Was I to be one of them? I could do 



worse than to work for a place that had me enjoying hair 
metal with a bunch of people my age, couldn't I? 

Michael, voice riding on a wave of cologne, called me in, 
shook my hand overly hard, and stared into my face with the 
wcirmth of a rutting buffalo. Standing in the room was a lanky 
man, whose thinness and height accented the rectangularity of 
his head. The two-inch long horn-shaped earring did nothing 
to help in his matter. Steve smiled a sly, toothy smile, and 
introduced himself as my mentor for the day. They excused 
me to speak in private. 

Taking advantage of my aimlessness, I peeked inside the 
Def Leppard room and saw the marker board — charts, 
graphs, dollar signs. It had been a sales meeting, befitting 
the room's decor of posters bearing great waves and golf 
courses and captions of SUCCESS and CHALLENGE. I 
winced, but thought of the carrot, the carrot. 

Outside, I met Jenny, a cherubic girl recently trans- 
planted from small town Pennsylvania. She greeted me wdth 
a handshake involving twisting, interlocked thumbs and 
snapping fingers — too intricate for someone you've just 
met. When I managed to follow the dance of pudgy hands, 
she congratulated my coolness, wondering aloud why none 
of these other New Yorkers could get it. No one responded 
to her.. Jenny liked my hair, and told me as much. She 
thought it, hke my handshaking ability, "very cool." I 
thanked her, politely. "Are you coming out with Steve 
today?" I told her yes. 

"Oh, awesome. He's very cool." Then, after a pause, 
"The best." Have you been here long, Jenny? "No. I'm new" 
What do we do here? "Steve will tell you. He's the best. 
Very cool." 

Dave, a South African man who'd spent the last seven 
years traveling the globe, joined us at the door. He, like I, 
was on his "Day of Observation." So, Dave, do you know 
what we're doing? "Na, man, they havun't told me shitt. But 
the munny sounds viry nice." 



iSTcfcr Of 






\N.l^.I 


yO.W-I 




1 




PRDCESSED UJDPiLD E-DOl 



81 



The day was a jewel in the crown of a gorgeous fall, and 
I didn't mind being outside, though I did begin to wonder 
what we were doing outside. Steve took us several blocks 
before explaining that Image Advertising worked with vari- 
ous glamour accounts as a grassroots marketer. Somewhere 
along the line, he let loose with the phrase "Direct market- 
ing," which sounds, at first, innocuously corporate and 
meaningless. 

Quick. What do a hot dog cart pusher, the beer man at 
a ballpark, someone selling designer knock-off watches out 
of their coat, and a crack dealer have in common? They're 
all direct marketers. 

Today, I would observe Steve and Jenny work for the 
Lexi Salon account. "It's cool," Steve told me, privately. 
"This is the greatest job in the world. All you do is talk to 
beautiful women all day." I could get dowoi with that, right? 
I fought myself to accept this asinine thought. Carrot, car- 
rot. . . I kept walking. 

Steve made insincere small talk. "Where are you from? 
What did you do? Cool, cool." 

Jenny led us by several feet, her enthusiasm bringing 
her out of earshot on the busy Midtown streets, ready to 
represent The Best Salon in the City. 

After five more blocks and the requisite civilities, Dave 
grew suspicious of the job and began to press for specific 
answers. "Well," Steve started, "What we do is place our- 
selves out here, at strategic points, and represent our clients 
directly to the beautiful women of Midtown. 

You like talking to beautiful women, don't you?" Dave, 
affecting his good humor and heterosexuality, nodded. 
"Good. And you like to make money, right?" Another nod. 

"Cool. Cool. You'll do great." 

Dave pressed harder, but Steve had bounded into the 
lead. Jenny heard his questioning and turned, still smiling a 
smile that began to look less and less a product of enthusi- 
asm and more and more one of simpleness. "Relax," she 
said. "Just watch Steve. He's the man. 

The best. Very cool." 




We stopped walking at the corner of 49th street and 
Park Avenue, the heart of Midtown Manhattan, among 
some of the most expensive real estate in the world. This, I 
thought, is where the businesses trap the businessmen. This 
is where money flows like the rivers that once fed civiliza- 
tions. This is where I might end up working in a despicable 
industry for my pile of gold.. Looking up at the sky here is 
an entirely different experience from doing so anywhere 
else. 

In other places, looking up, you might see pure sky, 
blue or black or grey, and sense the majesty of space, sense 
your place in a world blessed with the divinity of moun- 
tains. Or you might see grand human achievement: build- 
ings, monuments, and sense the majesty of toil and suffer- 
ing and history, sense your place in a world blessed and 
cursed with the divinity of human ability and effort. Here, 
you look up, and you see beautiful affi-onts of sensibility, 
arrogant, poking at the belly of the sky, and sense the 
majesty of metaphor, sense your small place in a hideous, 
enticing universe of money and the loss of soul. 

This is the carrot. 

Steve spoke, in a way that suggested a love of Tom 
Cruise: "Here we are. This is the deal. 

All day long, we are going to select beautiful women, 
and we are going to get them to come to our client, Lexi 
Salon . What we offer them is a three hundred dollar value : 
hair cuts, shampoos, nails, feet, massage. All for sixty bucks. 
One by one, you're going to see us get rejected, but that's 
cool, 'cause we only want women who really want take care 
of themselves. Really, they sell themselves on the service, 
because they like being beautiful. 

We just have to tell them that. That's all we do. We are 
very excited, because this is exciting. Alright? Jenny, ready? 
Alright. Who's giving me money?" He turned around and 
faced his audience, a never-ending stream of men and 
women on their way to lunch, to work, to shop, to live in 
New York. He reached for his breath mints. 

Dave and I stood several feet away, trying to look like 
passers-by who had simply stopped to wait for dates and 
fi-iends, an act that grows transparent after a few minutes. 
We watched Steve and Jenny flag women down and pro- 
duce their salon menus to turning backs and deaf ears. After 
a few tries, Steve took a break and came to us. 

"Ok. There are five steps to what we do: l)The Intro, 
2) The Short Story, 3) The Display, 4) The Close, and S)The 
Rehash, and just remember, the Rehash is the Cash. The 
better at this you are, the more money you'll make. You get 
a cut of every sale. See. . ." He stopped for a moment, lost 
in involuntary cheer, and began again, "the beauty of all of 
this is. . .there's a logic to it. A plan. That's what you learn at 
Image. You learn the five steps. 

You learn the plan, the logic, y'know? That's the beau- 
ty. There's no stupid bullshit — you just learn the steps and 
you make money. I love it!" He turned again, eyes wide. 



82 



PRDCESSED LUDRLD 5-001 




California Department of Corrections 



waving his hand in a sassy, outreached, come-hither motion 
to a beautiful woman in leather, and approached her. 
"HI. . .I'd like to invite you to my salon. . ." 

Jenny was not having a good first ten minutes of it, 
being blown off by no less than three women so far. She saw 
that I saw this, and told me, "Most of these people are bitch- 
es. But hey, that's cool. That's when you just have to be like, 
'Ok, baby, have a nice day!' y'knowPYou can't be desperate 
or pathetic." I recalled her handshake and I saw a need in this 
woman to show herself full of brass. 

Steve's woman in leather had by now crossed the 
street, and he came back, asking me, "So. Do you remem- 
ber the five steps?" I recited them perfectly, and Steve 
smiled a big brotherly smile. "You'll be great." 

Dave was tiring of this, and wanted some more 
answers. "Whut about whin it gits cowld?"."Well, we're 
hot!" Steve snapped. "When you get as focused as I do, you 
won't mind the cold. I'm pumped, baby! I mean, you just 
think of the money you make, the women you talk to, and 
you just get so into it, you block out everything else. You 
just get in the zone, baby." Later, I asked Steve how much he 
made and when he started. Being a Manager Trainee, he 
makes $25 per sale, and he started three and a half months 
ago. That puts him on the street since July. I wondered, to 
myself, how many cold days there 'd been since July. 

He popped cinother Tic-Tac and waved down some 
more women. Five feet away, Jenny spied a middle-aged 
woman coming down the sidewalk. She tried her line, 
squinting her eyes in mock interest and twirling her thin 
hair. "Excuse me, where did you get your hair cut?" The 



woman could smell the acting and brought her cigarette up 
to chest level in defense. "In Staten Island." 

"Oh, really? I... 'cause I — really like it — and I was 
wondering if you'd like to try a full body salon. . ." 

In stride, the woman waved her burning cigarette in 
Jenny's face and continued walking, away. 

She tried again not long after this — a pair of women 
this time — and stopped them long enough to get to Step 
Three before I stopped paying attention. 

More and more, my thoughts drifted to the source of 
the gorgeous lunchtruck aroma. Dave too, apparently, as he 
turned to me and marveled, "It smills loike the puhfect 
curry mix, dunit?" It did, and I eyed greedily the styrofoam 
boxes of curry chicken and rice that kept making their way 
away from the cart. 

Soon, the scent, the good, wholesome, soulful scent, 
had taken its toll on the South African Traveler. "Aw, fuk 
this. This is fukin stchewpid. I make more munny waiting 
tables, and I dun't hafta feel like some fukin arse on the 
stchreet. I'm going ta git me some lunch. Good luck 
witchaself." 

Steve watched his deserter waltz away hke so many 
beautiful women and approached me for damage control. 
"See? It's not for everyone. You're still with it, right?" I nod- 
ded, feigning enthusiasm. "Good. Just keep watching. We 're 
just getting warmed up." 

He turned his back to eye the pedestrians, and I went 
over to the lunch truck for some chicken and rice. Extra 
hot sauce, please. Thanks. I considered whether or not this 
was rude, to stand here on a street corner and eat while 



PRDCE5SED LilDRLEJ E-DDI 



83 



Steve and Jenny worked. I dug my fork in. 

I ate leisurely, realizing that once this box was empty, 
all I would have left is watching "Harassing for Dollars." I 
saw jenny produce some credit card slips, and her pair of 
women followed suit with shiny Platinum Cards.. Once 
they crossed the block, she squealed with excitement. 
Seeing that Steve was busy in the middle of Step Three him- 
self, she approached me with her shine. "I just made two 
sales!" I smiled approvingly, mouth full of chicken gristle. "I 
get ten dollars a sale!" I wanted desperately to spit out the 
unappealing bite, but out of respect for this woman, 1 swal- 
lowed instead. I maintained my approving smile. 

Congratulations. That's twenty bucks in what, a half 
hour? She nodded, happily. Just think, that's forty dollars an 
hour. That's 80,000 a year. You're on pace to make eighty 
thousand dollars this year. 

Her mouth dropped. She had not thought of it this way 
before. Her face turned a shade pinker, and she turned 
around, ready to flag another pair of women down, but not 
before turning to face me again. Perhaps she wanted to say 
something nice to me, after I'd helped her put her incredi- 
ble fortune in perspective. "You know, that smells soo 
good," she said, pointing at the source of my gristle. You 
hungry? You want some? I offered her the fork. 

"No thanks. I can't eat meat right now," she declined, 
still bright from her sale, and turned back around. I thought 
about what her last sentence meant and kept eating. I 
frowTied, realizing that I was the one that she had shared her 
special moment with, a moment that was validation for the 
passage of her youth. 

As I wondered whether or not it was apparent to the 
people on the street that I was here in cahoots with this man 
and this woman who were relentlessly bothering them for 
money, a short, fat, bald man holding a map and wearing a 
fanny pack asked me for directions to Saint Patrick's 
Cathedral. I tried, but could offer him no advice. He start- 
ed to walk back to his friends when I saw Steve waving his 
fingers over the list of salon services as a blonde listened 
intently. I called for the man to come back. You know, I can't 
tell you where it is, but you see that guy over there, in the 
blue shirt? Talking to the blonde woman? He's from around 
here. Go ask him. Still, the man returned to his friends, 
presumably uncomfortable with the idea of interrupting a 
man's business. I waved to him, nodded my head, gave him 
a thumbs-up. It's cool, I gestured, almost demandingly. At 
the urging of his party, I saw him tap Steve on the shoulder. 

This was no beautiful woman who liked to take care of 
herself, and Steve was predictably, visibly annoyed. He 
brushed the man off coldly, and when he turned back to his 
prospective sale, the woman herself had begun to direct the 
man and his party. Seconds later, she herself walked away 
without having treated herself to $300 worth of salon serv- 
ices for only $59.95. 

Finished with my lunch, I now sought another way to 



amuse myself. I decided to make some phone calls. Three 
minutes into a conversation with a friend that included two 
minutes of incredulous laughter, he began to chastise me. 
"What the hell are you still doing there? Francis! You have 
two degrees! You speak three languages! Leave right now, 
for Christ's sake." 

Steve had made a sale, and Jenny ran over to me to tell 
me. "Look at The Man! Cash in hand. Cash." He came over, 
counting his twenty five dollars, a king surveying his riches. 
I smiled admiringly. Wow. It's a good day. "Oh, my friend, 
it's always a good day." He thought for a half second. "It's an 
outstanding day." He was amped by his sale, and 
began. dancing back into the thick of the foot traffic. 
"Alright. Who's giving me money?" I heard him say to him- 
self. It's just another outstanding day at Image. 

jenny tried again, with her stock approach. "Excuse 
me," she began, stepping directly in a woman's path and 
again twirling her thin hair, "where did you get your hair 
cut?" The woman sidestepped her and continued dowoi the 
block wdth jenny in tow. "Because I want to recommend my 
salon. . ." I saw her follow the woman for fifteen feet before 
she reached out and tugged at her sleeves, ignored the 
whole way until the tug produced a sharp, violent snap of 
the woman's arm. Then, remembering her sass, Jenny pro- 
duced a dismissive "I didn't want to talk to you anyway" 
wave. She walked the twenty feet back to the corner too 
coolly, too slowly, vdth more attitude than is natural in her 
stride. 

A weathered man with a ragged blanket — a glaring 
anomaly in the midtown streets — came and sat on the side- 
walk, closer to the curb and to the speeding traffic than the 
Image representatives. After a moment, he produced an old 
cardboard sign, beat up from use, which read, simply: 
"Please help. Homeless / HIV +" He stared at his feet, and 
didn't look up when Steve stepped over him to ask another 
woman for money. 

This was enough. I felt my symptoms clearing. I paled 
my face and let my eyelids droop, affecting a face of misery. 
When the woman walked away, I called to Steve and 
explained that I didn't feel well. I clutched my stomach for 
dramatic effect. "The food?!?" he exclaimed. I don't know. 
Maybe. I feel hke hell. Is there a bathroom around here? He 
directed me to a pizzeria and I went. I came back and told 
him that I'd vomited. He told me to call the office to sched- 
ule another Day of Observation. I nodded. "You really need 
to see rush hour, and how we do business then. 

This is nothing right here," he beamed. By the time I 
left, a half-hour after jenny's triumphant sale, she had not 
made another one. That put her down to twenty dollars an 
hour, or 40,000 a year. As I entered the subway, still clutch- 
ing my stomach, I looked to see another woman walk away 
from her. 40,000 and dropping. 

Have you ever seen a moldy parsnip? It looks kind of 
like a carrot. * 



84 



PRDCESSED kJUDPiLD E.QDl 



We DIG 
Books! 




send books for review to ProcesseJWorld, 41 Sutter Street, #1829. San Francisco. CA 94104. We are especially interested 
in social analyses of technology and work, the relationship between pohtical economy and ecology, history, art, etc. 



work with just-in-time production, imposing 
greater insecurity on workers through irregular 
scheduling and ending the notion of a "perma- 
nent job." Contract labor, team-based processes 
and tight deadlines make the individual worker 
responsible for managing the completion of 
specific tasks. 

To some extent this reflects the success of 
capitalism in absorbing the energy of previous 
generations of workers' revolt. The 20th centu- 
ry dependence on assembly line structures in 
which work was deskilled, routinized and ren- 
dered increasingly measurable by supervisorial 
oversight led to a huge increase in absenteeism, 
shoddy production, and what has been known 
as a "revolt against work." In the mid-1970s, a 
body of work emerged detailing the "Fordist" or 
"Taylorist" model of production, and its func- 
tion in controUing workers. 



Reviewed by Chris Carlsson 

The rhythm of dciily Hfe has dramatically changed 
over the past quarter century. Nowhere is this 
more glaring that at work. ProcessedWorld magazine 
was a rare voice questioning work's purpose and structure, 
especially from the subjective point of view of the workers 
themselves. This new issue was motivated in part by the 
eerie sense of silence about what is plainly going on all 
around us. The enormous expansion and redesign of work 
has gone largely ignored by the press and academia, except 
for claims that somehow we were living in a more exciting 
and "empowering" time than ever before. 

The business press runneth over with competing man- 
agement theories and strategies. Contradictions and con- 
flict are as much a part of managing as they are of working. 
In spite of the clash of theories and practices, the overarch- 
ing needs of capitalism to reproduce itself has thus far won 
out over any other social goal. The success or failure of a 
given capitalist enterprise is unimportant compared to the 
longer range success of "the system" in ensuring and 
extending its power and control over our lives. This persist- 
ent success is based in no small part on a continual churn- 
ing and overturning of the structures of work so as to break 
dovvTi the rise of any alternative communities of workers 
that can mount a sustained challenge to the needs of prof- 
itability. Some of the mechanisms of this are relatively 
familiar: low wages, union-busting, illegal immigration as a 
wedge against labor shortages, etc. 

In the past 25 years or so, the old style of managing 
workers by closely bossing them with front-line managers 
has been replaced by a more subtle system . The new struc- 
ture facilitates a type of self-management in many kinds of 
work. This involves speeding up the pace and intensity of 

PPiDCESSED LUDRLD 2.0D1 




The Critical Study of 
Work: Labor, Technology, 
and Global Production 

Edited by Rick Baldoz, Charles 
Koeber, and Philip Kraft 
Temple University Press, 
Philadelphia PA: 2001 



Out of sight, toiling in universities, critical scholars are 
extending this analysis, studying the Great Speedup that 
characterizes the last quarter of the 20th century. The 
Critical Study of Work presents an insightful and refresh- 
ing inquiry by over a dozen writers. The critiques are usu- 
ally rooted in the "labor process theory" developed in the 
wake of Harry Braverman's 1 974 classic Labor and Monopoly 
Capital. Braverman made a compelling case that the unique 
nature of human labor and capitalist production led to the 
organization of modern life that we have today. The editors 
summarize Braverman's emalysis, showing that the design of 
work in the 20th century was meant to 

"continuously replace each generation of workers 
with another and to expand "productive," that is waged, 
relations to all spaces, public and private, where they do 
not yet exist. . . The whole capitalist labor process is 
simultaneously technical, ideological and political: the 
production process itself is a form of class struggle." (p. 
10, "Making Sense of Work in the Twenty-First Century" 
The Critical Study ofWork) 

In the same introduction, the editors characterize one 
of the book's central points: 

"Increased flexibility for employers translates into 

85 



longer work days not just for minimum-wage con- 
tingent workers in sweatshops, but also for techni- 
cal and administrative workers in twenty-four 
hour-time-zone production chains. . . Firms with 
marketing and sales departments in New York or 
Frankfurt and research and design facilities in the 
Silicon Valley or Geneva can continually shop for 
the cheapest contract manufacturers in Ireland or 
Brazil or Penang or China. High-fashion clothing 
designers in New York and Milan hire manufactur- 
ing subcontractors in the United States and Italy, 
who in turn can choose between sweatshops in 
China — or Chinatown." 
The "new economy" and "globalization" receive the 
glare of sustained criticism in this important volume. In San 
Francisco we have been in the eye of the new economy hur- 
ricane, and have long been a capitalist headquarters city 
from which globalization has been planned and carried out. 
Standard Oil of California, Bechtel Engineering — and xmtil 
recently Bank of America and Del Monte Foods — call San 
Francisco home. Silicon Valley's electronic giants are just 
fifty miles south. While political campaigns decrying this 
abuse or that unethical investment have risen and fallen over 
the years, this book digs deeper, with case studies of the 
emerging organization of work that multinational compa- 
nies have helped design and implement. 

Michael Buroway, inspired by Braver man and others, 
sets out in the first essay to explore the subjective experi- 
ences of work, trying to imderstand not why workers shirk 
work but why workers work as hard as they do. He worked 
in a Chicago machine shop, in Hungary, and in the former 
Soviet Union, labeling the different types of workplace 
organization as "hegemony" and "despotism ."The concept of 
despotism recurs in other essays, too. The somewhat jar- 
gonistic term "flexible despotism" is the rubric describing 
the current era. 

In "Flexible Despotism: The Intensification of 
Insecurity and Uncertainty in the lives of SiHcon Valley's 
High-Tech Assembly Workers," Jennifer JiHye Chun poses 
the issue clearly. 

"How do flexible production regimes actually create, 
maintain, and reproduce worker consent to the stress 
and insecurity associated with the drive for flexibiUty, 
particularly in a global economy in which constant adap- 
tation to change is directly associated with survival?" 
The question of consent is crucial to our era. After all, 
we work many more hours, with more household members 
having to work, today than at any time since the 19th cen- 
tury (see "Farce or Figleaf" in this issue). It seems unlikely 
that we would agree to work longer and harder for essen- 
tially similar standards of living if we sav/ it as externally 
imposed on us, especially by the owners of business. Why 
do we go along with this? Chun again: 

"Employers in flexible despotic regimes attempt to mask 
the coercive character of their labor control strategies 



through two types of labor regimes: subcontracting and 
contract manufacturing. In both regimes, they tie workers' 
need for work to their performance on the job by stressing 
the "voluntary" nature of worker consent to the chaotic and 
unpredictable demands of flexible production." 
The flexibility demanded depends on the global reach 
of production facilities, the just-in-time systems of subcon- 
tracting components and materials from other companies, 
and use of temporary, contingent workers, often immi- 
grants and women, at low wages. Even in higher wage sec- 
tors like software production, flexibility has led to widely 
dispersed members of product development teams, with 
for example, programmers in Ireland working with a pro- 
gram designer in St. Louis and graphic designers in San 
Francisco. Such interdependence across geographic space 
reinforces an apparently voluntary engagement with tight 
deadlines and huge workloads. 

Three essays in the concluding section of The Critical 
Study of Work examine professional and technical workers, 
focusing on the control of technical workers. Nowadays work 
imposes its own discipline through the use of contract labor, 
the assembUng of specialized teams to create specific prod- 
ucts, working unpaid and unavoidable overtime (accepted in 
part due to the teamwork concept in which workers become 
beholden to each other to meet impossible deadlines). The 
urgency faced by each worker to successfully complete the 
project is reinforced by the need to move on from the cur- 
rent job to the next, move horizontally to a new employer or 
project, bid up the value of skills — and the fear of falling that 
accompanies any time out of the technical workplace. 

This is a crucial analysis of how the system holds itself 
together while making the structure of work and the social 
relations surrounding it appear to be inevitable and "natural." 
From the high-end programmers and technical writers all 
the way to fastfood workers (the subject of the other two 
books re\iewed here) , personal insecurity regarding the next 
job, or to having enough hours of paid work (or variations on 
that theme), drive people to accept adverse conditions of 
overwork, unpaid overtime, and severe disruptions to any- 
thing resembling a "normal" life outside of work. 

We have just seen the meltdown of the New Economy 
stock values, bemoaned in the press and either lamented or 
cheered in local commimities. This book illustrated the way 
capitalist markets "shake out" over time, purging "inefficient" 
and unprofitable businesses — and business practices. San 
Francisco during the boom was ground zero for new work 
patterns based on team projects, contract and temp work, 
and equally high levels of transience, wages and bravado. For 
a couple of years these businesses thrived on millions of dol- 
lars of venture capital, on balance producing very little of 
value. The dotcom crash is not merely about purging weak 
businesses with no products, but, importantly, about impos- 
ing insecurity and fear on a subset of the working class which 
had grown cocky and even proprietary when it actually 



86 



PRDCESSED kUORLQ E-DDl 



owned nothing, and produced relatively little, with sldlls that 
were temporarily rare and highly paid. 

Many web workers used to $50,000+ salaries will have 
to accept far less to get regular work again, unless they have 
augmented their capabilities with database programming or 
other skills. Regardless, the collapse of value in this sector 
will lower wages for such work. The highly flexible and 
transient workforce will find it difficult to contest lower 
wages when constantly threatened with prolonged unem- 
ployment. Web work is being made easier (i.e. "deskilled"). 
The convergence of WYSIWYG ("what you see is what you 
get") web design tools (software like Dreamweaver and 
Frontpage) and a steady increase in the number of recently 
trained "web designers" assures that the computer know- 
how of this recently richly rewarded sector will become 
more common and less expensive. 

A similar process took place in the 1 980s among early 
operators of "word processing machines" who had found 
double wages over their previous employment as secre- 
taries and typists. For a brief period word processing was a 
"with-it" modern sounding job. Then it became the back 
office clerical plantation job. Will web designers follow the 
same path? The dotcom meltdown might be best under- 
stood as a mechanism to quickly alter downward the "deal" 
offered a small part of the working population. 

The contingent nature of new work structures pro- 
foundly impacts human connections. A 50-60 hour work 
week, leaves little time at home, with family, friends or 
neighbors. This in turn limits the ability to form the human 
bonds that help grow the spaces in which resistance and 
revolt can develop. Would less intense, less fragmented 
work lead to the formation of a stronger sense of class and 
the growth of oppositional political movements? We can't 
know the answer, but we do know that the new structures 
of work produce harried, isolated and exhausted people. 
The short duration of shared work experiences precludes 
the kinds of connections that allow for trust and mutual aid 
to grow beyond the most basic kinds of human solidarity 
(e.g. helping a coworker take a long enough bathroom 
break, talk to a sick child on the phone, etc.) 

Still, workers find ways to connect and help each other 
out. In "Silent RebeUions in the Capitalist Paradise: A Brazil- 
Quebec Comparison," Angelo Soares takes a look at strate- 
gies of mutual aid and resistance by female supermarket 
cashiers in Quebec and Brazil. He documents a rich vein of 
strategies by workers in both locales that protect them from 
supervisors and unpleasant customers. The women who pre- 
side at the check-out counters stand astride a crucial point of 
capitalist reproduction: the moment where one exchanges 
hard-earned wages for the goods required to live. As Soares 
puts it, "the difficult transition between the Garden of Eden 
and the brutality of the marketplace." 

The actual behaviors undertaken are familiar and even 
trivial when taken in isolation, but Soares argues that the 



"daily strategies of resistance form a constant struggle 
that uses such simple and ordinary weapons as dissimula- 
tion, false compliance, pilfering, feigned ignorance, slan- 
der, foot dragging, sabotage, work-to-rule, solidarity, 
absenteeism, and more radically, quitting. Tlius, just as mil- 
lions of anthozoan polyps create, willy-nilly, a coral reef, so 
do the multiple acts of worker insubordination and evasion 
create political and economic barrier reefs of their own 
and these ... in a certain way, have a shielding effect against 
oppression, violence, and exploitation at work." 



Youth At Work: The 

Unionized Fast-food and 

Grocery Workp/oce 

By Stuart Tannock, Temple Univ. 
Press, Philadelphia. PA: 200 1 




Supermarket workers get a different but close look in 
Youth at Work: The Unionized Fast-food and Grocery 
Workplace. Stuart Tannock examines the condition of work in 
low- wage, high-turnover service sector jobs in fast food and 
supermarkets. He shows that the fact that these jobs typically 
employ young people is no justification for the lousy condi- 
tions and low pay on which they depend. He examines the 
condition of youth as workers, in itself a radical departure fi-om 
the rest of the literature in the field, which prefers to look at 
this sector of the working class as "youth" (reproducing the aca- 
demic aversion in the U.S. to "class" as a meaningful concept). 
He spends the first part of the book criticizing the four areas of 
previous sociological data that have attempted to understand 
youth work: youth labor market, school-to-work, student- 
worker, and social-reproduction. 

We read a detailed analysis of unionized "Fry House" 
fastfood workplaces in the pseudonymously named towTi of 
"Glenwood" (Canada) and unionized supermarkets in "Box 
Hill" (U.S.). Tannock's analysis is a breath of fresh air in a 
field of sociological blather that usually reproduces plati- 
tudes in the service of the captains of industry. The kind of 
sociology that puts out a false, ideological account of work 
is simply insulting to anyone who actually works. His 
research brought back memories of his own restaurant 
work experiences. From the preface: 

"Restaurants can be miserable places to work. 
Managers micro-manage, ride high on tinpot power 
trips, and act as if they have no clue about what life is 
really like on the restaurant floor. . . time seems to 
career endlessly from panicked rush to deadened empti- 
ness, so that if you're not having to handle the stress of a 
fast-packed workday, you're having to figure out how on 
earth you're going to get through the monotony of a 



PRDCESSED LUDRLD E-DDI 



87 



seemingly never-ending six-hour shift. [. . .] Workers 
constantly come and go, and in an at-will work environ- 
ment, managers can fire staff whenever and wherever 
they desire." 

But he knows there are some redeeming aspects to the 
work, too. 

"For all the asshole managers and pinhead customers 
I had in my restaurant career, I also had some awesome 
managers and many favorite customers." 
He shows that the notion that fastfood restaurant 
employment teaches young people self-discipline and how 
to be good workers in future employment is absurd. This 



^^amkWM 




ienerr. 




D. Minkier 1993 



The Muscle Hustle 

While you're outside flipping the meat, the beef industry 

is inside your pants lowering your sperm count. There's 

nothing virile about cancer of the bowel and nothing 

masculine about eating farm animals. 

Don't buy the bull. 



whole sector of the economy depends on a permanent sup- 
ply of low- wage stopgap youth workers. Tannock insists that 
the currently imderpaid, degraded working conditions of 
youth workers are the responsibility of the so-called "sec- 
ondary labor market" employers. He devotes a good deal of 
space to examining unionized workplaces as a way for 
"stopgap" workers to gain some control over their work 
experiences and see real improvements. 

As a sociological study this book offers an abundance 
of detailed, on-the-ground stories. From the ways different 
fastfood stores in the same chain differ from one another 
due to different work cultures, to the very different styles 
of vuiionism between the U.S. -based supermarket union 
and the Canadian union of fastfood workers, Tannock has 
done his homework. As efforts to organize and improve 
conditions continue to emerge among low-wage service 
sector workers, particularly young people, this book is an 
indispensable resource. 

His research gives more evidence of the emerging 
design of work. Here he cites James Barker (writing in 
1993 in a magazine called Administrative Science Quarterlj) 
who is calling it "concertive control": 

"(Concertive control] represents a key shift in the locus 
of control from management to workers themselves, who 
collaborate to develop the means of their own control. . . 
Concertive control becomes manifest as . . . team mem- 
bers act within the parameters of value systems and the 
discourses they themselves create. These new collabora- 
tively created, value -laden premises (manifest as ideas, 
norms, and rules) become the supervisory force that 
guides activity in the concertive control system." 
Tannock continues 

"Most Fry House outlets in Glenwood operate with- 
out a full-time, in-store managerial presence — and some 
outlets are left for months to run themselves without 
any store manager at all. Fry House ensures that work- 
ers will work hard, first, by deliberately fostering a sense 
of team membership, store ownership, and distinctive 
store-based identity system among its employees; and sec- 
ond, by using a "just-in-time" labor system, cutting work 
hours so tightly that workers have to cooperate closely and 
work hard simply to make it through the workday." 
Tannock humanizes the subtle distinctions that exist 
even among workers in one of the most carefully designed 
work regimes of our time. 

Fast Food Nation spends a chapter illustrating the con- 
ditions "Behind the Coimter" and in the process corroborates 
a good deal of the research presented in greater detail by 
Tannock. Eric Schlosser does a briefcase study of a teenager 
who works in a Colorado Springs McDonalds. Her workday, 
starting at 5:15 a.m. on weekends, and including weekday 
shifts, fills up a great deal of her life. Little time is left for 
schoolwork and even less for a "normal" teenage social life. 
Teachers are quoted about students falling asleep in class, fail- 
ing to finish homework assignments, etc., often due to 
employment at nearby fast food franchises. 



88 



PRDCE55ED kiJDRLD E-DDl 



Fast Food Nation: The Dark 
Side of the All-American Meal 

By Eric Schlosser 
Houghton Mifflin. NY. NY: 2001 




Not only are the youthftil fastfood workers finding their 
education compromised, they are not gaining any real skills. 
At a conference profiled by Schlosser fastfood executives 
agreed that "zero training" is the industry's goal — to be 
achieved by relying on photographs of menu items. "[I]f there 
are instructions, make them very simple, write them at a 
fifth-grade level, and write them in Spanish and Enghsh." (p. 
72) Everyone knows how McDonalds insists that its fi-anchise 
operators follow centralized directives on every aspect of 
running a fi-anchise, right dovsoi to the size of the pickle slices 
to the circumference of the paper cups. 

Schlosser has written an impressive book. He details 
the impact of fast food on the eating habits of Americans, 
including its contribution to the soaring obesity rate. He 
takes a hard look at the political economy of fast food, its 
connection to suburbanization, sprawl and car culture. The 
restaurant industry, he notes, is the single largest contribu- 
tor to right-wing Republicans in Congress, who in turn 
have led the fight to keep the minimum wage down (it is 
now 40% less in real terms than it was in the early 1970s). 
During the last 2 S years of a falling real minimum wage the 
fast food industry has expanded enormously. No other 
industry depends so completely on low wage workers. 

Meanwhile, the fast food industry has grown so large so 
fast that it has affected many aspects of the American econ- 
omy. Potato farming, cattle ranching, meatpacking, public 
health and marketing, all have been radically altered by the 
rise of the fast food industry. Meatpacking has been widely 
de-unionized since the early 1980s. (In Processed World #30 I 
reviewed Barbara Kopple's fascinating documentary 
American Dream, which documents the sordid demise of 
Local P-9, the meatpacking union at Hormel's Austin, 
Minnesota factory.) Due to intensification, speedup and the 
employment of non-union immigrant labor, meatpacking is 
once again one the nation's most dangerous jobs, plagued 
with enormous accident rates. Moreover, the practice of 
slaughtering and preparing meat has led to a growing pub- 
lic health crisis, as deadly pathogens like E.coli routinely 
appear in ground beef (dozens of food poisoning outbreaks 
are documented). As Schlosser pungently puts it: "There's 
shit in the meat" and he means it quite literally, backing up 
his sickening assertion with a 1996 USDA study that found 
78.6% of ground beef contained microbes that are spread 



primarily by fecal material. 

Fast Food Nation is a tour de force and a great read. For any 
of us fighting creeping monoculture, the corporatization of 
everyday life, and the subjection of human values to those 
of the market, this book is as galling as it is inspiring. 



Mapping Cyberspace 

By Martin Dodge and Rob Kitchen 

Routledge 

NY. NY: 2001 



reviewed by Primitivo Morales 

Geographic space has always been an issue — movin 




ourselves, messages or goods from point "A" to 
point "B" has seen constant technological innova- 
tion. Modern aspects range from "urban sprawl" (cars) and 
"globalization" (telecommxonications; container ization; jets) 
to issues of access (the Americans With Disabilities Act) and 
control (see, for instance Mike Davis' Citj of Quartz). 

The popularization of the Internet has led to some new 
possibilities: some have seen the advent of global communi- 
ties which ignore spatial constraints; others predict the dis- 
appearance of local politics and community. Clashes between 
the "old" spatially defined units, such as countries, and the 
new "borderless" world of the web are seen in the daily press: 
U.S. edicts that attempt to control the whole world; attempts 
by some states to ban the sale of items found to be criminal 
in their countries (e.g. Nazi paraphernalia, items offensive to 
certain religions, etc.). Certain forms of surveillance seem to 
also take on much wider implications (the NSA/GCHQ sys- 
tem known as "Echelon," which monitors international 
telecommunications, and the F.B.I.'s "Cerberus," which mon- 
itors e-mail and other Internet traffic). 

An ambitious new book by Martin Dodge and Rob 
Kitchen, Mapping Cyberspace addresses some of these 
issues in the course of extending cartography to "Infor- 
mation and Communication Technologies (hereafter 
referred to as ICTs), or to "cyberspace," borrowing a term 
from science fiction writer William Gibson. Summarizing 
hundreds of studies and books in fields as diverse as philos- 
ophy, cartography, sociology, psychology and literary theo- 
ry, this books covers a lot of (virtual) ground. 

They define cyberspace as "the conceptual space within 
ICTs, rather than the technology itself. . . . [C]yber.space does 
not consist of one homogeneous space; it is a myriad of rapid- 
ly expanding cyberspaces, each providing a different form of 
digital interaction and communication. In general, these 
spaces can be categorized into . . . the Internet, tho.sc within 



PRDCESSED kUDFLE] E-DQl 



89 



\irtual reality, and conventional telecom- 
munications[.]"The focus of the book is on 
the first two the Internet and virtual reality. 

There's way too much in this book to 
cover here — they examine ways of map- 
ping geographical use of the Internet, the 
circadian rhythm of global telecommunica- 
tions and Internet usage, methods of chart- 
ing interaction in chat rooms or in email, as 
well MUDs and MOOs ("Multi-User 
Domains," which are text-based worlds 
that users share, and "Multi-User Object 
Oriented Environments," which may pres- 
ent a visual interface, and allow users to 
change the environment). They've got a 
good selection of illustrations, and the 
book has a rich bibliography and lots of 
links to relevant Internet sites (their 
address is www.MappingCyberspace.com). 

Of particular interest to the non-car- 
tographer/non-Internet techie, is the sec- 
ond chapter, "Geographies of the informa- 
tion society," which examines "how the 
development and use of ICTs and cyber- 
space effects socio-spatial relations." One 
aspect is global culturalization: the "new 
global village" anticipated by Marshall 
McLuhan. Citing several studies, they find 
that the \illage would seem to be "largely 
constructed and dominated by American 
desires, values and practices." It reflects a 
view of the world that is based on linear 
perspective and objective realism. 
Cyberspace also contributes to "global cor- 
porate restructuring and increased market 
penetration," and incidentally restructures 
urban landscapes so they are all the same. 
This promises to be particularly true of so 
called "soft-cities" like Singapore, parts of 
London and Dublin — soft because they 
depend more on information that industri- 
al production. "This sameness is the result 
of decentering of production and con- 
sumption accompanied by homogenous, 
satellite development; gentrification in the 
form of reworking the old and unique into 
the new and the same; and new buildings 
adopting architectural pastiches that do not 
relate to local, historical styles." In fairness, 
they also look at a countervailing trend: 
"Western cities seem to be developing in 
two directions simultaneously. At one 
level, they are becoming less distinct, more 
global and more homogenous; at another 

90 PPinCESSED kUDFLD E • D 1 



NO! You may NOT 




take ohotoeraphs in McDon al dsL- 




photos by David Green 



PRDCESSEQ LUDRLD 2 . 



level, they are trying to market themselves as unique locales, 
set apart from other places, in order to attract consumption. 
What emerges is a complex interplay between the local and 
the global; the authentic and the inauthentic, between place 
and placelessness." (It is left to the reader to describe where 
our recent project. Shaping San Francisco, a multimedia histo- 
ry of SF, might lie.) 

The impact of ICTs on a sense of community is also exam- 
ined. The ability of people to develop virtual communities may 
be an antidote to living in places which people have no connec- 
tion to; or these new on-line communities may be an escape 
hatch which serves to weaken existing local communities. 
Cyberspace may also be used to reconnect people to the place 
they live in (again, projects such as SSF), and may also be an 
extension of a person's geographic space, just as telephones and 
postal letters can tie people together. Projects such as Santa 
Monica's PEN (Public Electronic Networks) and Montana's Big 
Sky Telegraph are examples of publicly visible networks based 
on a shared geography. They cite a number of studies showing 
that new conununities are also being formed: ". . .subcultures, 
centered on cyberpunk and youth movements which meet in 
cyberspace, cybercafes, nightclubs and communes, and whose 
materialistic practices are grounded in computer use, rave, 
ambient and industrial music, smart or designer drugs, science - 
fiction writing, and caUs for cultural and political change ."They 
point out that these are found in only a few areas — 
Amsterdam, London, the San Francisco area.. 

The effects of ICTs on political structures and move- 
ments are questioned: do they lead to a possibility that rep- 
resentative government could be replaced by direct govern- 
ment? Or might they mean the death of place-based mobi- 
hzations? Or might they serve to reinforce existing struc- 
tures? Examples range from the highly visible "War of ink and 
Internet" waged by the Zapatistas and their supporters, to 
homeless people in Santa Monica who used PEN to pressure 
the city into providing shower facilities. The Zapatista cam- 
paign seems to indicate a deconstruction of some aspects of 
nationality, even as it is based on a very geographic space, the 
Lacandon region of southern Mexico. 

Of course, governments are not exactly lying still — 
some have imposed controls on use of Internet technology 
(China, Singapore, etc.), while in other countries (the U.S., 
western Europe) it seems that the digital traces left by rou- 
tine transactions are all grist for the powers-that-be, whether 
for "market research" or active surveillance. From details on 
work performance (key-stroke counting and monitoring 
breaks), on consumer choices, from education and health 
records, from one's correspondence and reading habits, pri- 
vate and public cops can amass a wealth of detail on people. 

They also deal with the fond illusion of grass-roots access 
to the technology: "Cyberspace is patently not accessible to 
all. For example, in 1996 ... SO percent of all US Internet 
hosts were located in just five states . . . This pattern, 
although weakening continues to exist [in 2000] . . . 

92 



Cyberspace usage, and therefore benefits . . . are fragmented 
along traditional spatial and social divisions." Not surprising- 
ly, a number of studies have found cyberspace to be the play- 
ground of white middle-class males who speak English; 
although the profile has broadened somewhat in recent years, 
cyberspace is just another dividing line between the "haves" 
and "have-nots." ICTs also seem to be contributing to an 
increased divide between countries, as well. 

Of course, workers still are needed in the "post-indus- 
trial" age, and ICTs make it possible for them to be located 
far from their traditional stomping grounds. Tele-cottages 
and tele-communting are only part of the picture — call cen- 
ters allow support operations in Dublin or India to service 
U.S. customers at a fraction of the cost of U.S. wages and 
costs. These routine and tightly monitored economies have 
additional costs: according to a 1998 U.N. report, Ireland 
now has the greatest income polarization in Europe. The 
income gap between men and women has increased, and that 
the number of children living in poverty has doubled since 
1971 . Wages in Dublin, for instance, have increased by some 
17.6 percent between 1992 and 1997, while housing costs 
have increased 231 percent between 1994 and 1999. 

And that's just from the first 60 pages of this book (out 
of some 220). They do eventually get dowTi to the more pro- 
saic challenge of describing the formal topic of the book, rep- 
resentations of cyberspace. Building on recent innovations in 
cartography, they look at number of attempts to represent 
cyberspace, focusing on five key issues: "How "accurate" is 
the map? Is the map interpretable?What does the map not tell 
us? Why was the map drawn? Is the map ethical?" 

They look at ways to represent traffic flow and usage of 
the Internet, ways to represent the results of searches, and 
methods of visually showing interactions among people in 
email, USENET and chat rooms. They also cover projects 
such as Alphaworld (a 3-d visual representation of a virtual 
city and environs) and the use of "avatars" (software simu- 
lacra) to represent one's self. One of the final chapters is on 
"Spatial cognition in cyberspace," in which they sum up 
research on how people find their way in the real world, and 
look at applications of that knowledge to cyberspace. One 
difference in getting around in cyberspace, which any user of 
web sites must surely recognize, is that something like half of 
all navigational moves are users backing up to find their way 
to someplace else! A far cry from our ability to maneuver in 
cities and other "real world" environments. 

They fini.sh off with a detailed analysis of dozens of 
cyberpunk and science-fiction books using a computerized 
semantic analysis to isolate major themes and ideas. 

This book is a Uttle dry at times, in part because they 
are summing up so much research in so little space. It's an 
illuminating read if you're interested in the political and 
social effects of cyberspace, or if you have a technical inter- 
est in representing this new world. 

Three and half stars! Check it out! 

PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DOl 



Disciplined Minds: 

A CRITICAL LOOK AT SALARIED 

PROFESSIONALS AND THE 

SOUL-BATTERING SYSTEM THAT 

SHAPES THEIR LIVES 

By Jeff Schmidt 

Rowman and Littlefield 

NY. NY: 2001 




PtIOifSSIONALS 

AM) mr 

SOUL-BATTERING 

SYSTEM THAT 

SHAPES THEIR 

IJVES 



A lot lurks beneath the workplace goal of profession- 
alism. The popular and technical meanings of "pro- 
fessional" interact to reveal a whole world of social 
relations. One of the most important is that "professional" 
isn't an appearance — it's a way of life. An excellent book by 
Jeff Schmidt, "Disciplined Minds" examines both the social 
role and the training of the professional. Even more impor- 
tantly, he gives a whole slew of techniques for resisting pro- 
fessionalism in college and at work. 

He writes that "[ojne of this book's goals is to decon- 
struct the minimum requirements that make a person a 
professional. ... As professionals become a bigger segment 
of the forces of production, so the production of profes- 
sionals becomes a bigger activity in society . . . The supposed 
political neutrality of the process of professional qualifica- 
tion [is] a myth . . . The ideological obedience that the qual- 
ification system requires for success turns out to be identi- 
cal to the ideological obedience that characterizes the work 
of the salaried professional." 

He presents intriguing ideas about the differences 
between expectations and ideals and the realities settled 
for. Even MBAs would demand more money to work for a 
tobacco company than for a non-profit. Women are less 
likely to be bought off than men, which, he opines, may 
contribute to the "glass-ceiling" that keeps women from 
upper management. 

He disposes of the popular myth of the left-wing/ lib- 
eral leanings of professionals. Using polls during the Korean 
and Vietnam wars he demonstrates that the percentage of 
people who supported these wars goes up with education- 
al level. Although some studies have shown professionals to 
more liberal on broadly posed social questions, when actu- 
al issues of work-place hierarchy arise, the veneer strips 
away. With only about five percent of all full-time college 
professors considering themselves left of the conservative- 
liberal mainstream (the number of right-wingers is about 
0.4 percent), it's hard to see why universities have such left- 
ist reputations. 

"For understanding the professional, the concept of 
'ideology' will emerge as much more useful that that of 
'skill.' But what is ideology exactly? Ideology is thought 
that justifies action . . . Economics may bring you back to 
your employer day after day, but it is ideology that makes 



that activity feel like a reasonable or unreasonable way to 
spend your life. 

"Work in general is becoming more and more ideo- 
logical, and so is the workforce that does it. ... Of 
course, ideology has been a workplace issue all along: 
Employers have always scrutinized the attitudes and val- 
ues of the people they hire, to protect themselves . . . 
Today, however, for a relatively small but rapidly grow- 
ing fraction of jobs, employers will carefully assess your 
attitude for an additional reason: its crucial role in the 
work itself. On these jobs, which are in every field, from 
journalism and architecture to education and commer- 
cial art, your view of the world threatens to affect not 
only the quantity and quality of what you produce, but 
also the very nature of the product. ... [A] prerequisite 
for employment is the willingness and ability to exercise 
what I call ideological discipline." 

He also explores the concept of "assignable curiosity" as 
a hallmark of the successful professional. Scientists and 
researchers must restrict their curiosity to narrow areas of 
interest to their masters; at the same time there is a remark- 
able ability to invent good reasons to delve into narrow — 
but useful — areas of study. 

Not all modern offices are dominated by professionals, 
and so to some extent the material in this book may be less 
applicable outside academia. I work for a dot-com, and 
there are no doubt some advanced degrees present, but the 
fields of computers and information technology have 
expanded so rapidly that credentialed workers (i.e. those 
stamped and certified by the graduate degree programs) are 
often hard to find. Many technologies have evolved more 
rapidly than the standard education, and event the most 
current degree could be outmoded in a few years. OJT (on 
the job training) is far more likely to be necessary to keep 
up on new developments. The very nature of the work 
tends to draw people with a similar problem-solving desire, 
and often a similar background. That in turn "selects" and 
filters much like graduate school. Although the "how" may 
be unusually flexible, the "why" is not. 

After showing why the workplace requires certain 
traits, Schmidt visits the standardized tests so familiar to 
U.S. high schools. He does an excellent job of showing why 
these tests are inherently biased (and, indeed, must be so), 
not merely due to content — which Educational Testing 
Service et. al. try to correct — but because of the structure 
and demands of the questions. By selecting for those stu- 
dents who are willing to work artificial problems within a 
very constricted time fi^ame and produce the correct for- 
mula (often an answer learned by rote from studying other 
tests), the system winnows out those not willing to con- 
form to artificial rules. It deems most valuable those who 
know "how" rather than "why."The tests provide a facade of 
neutrality, allowing the student to make decisions about his 
or her future based on seemingly objective facts. 

Statistics show that most potential professionals will 
fail. In 1997 some 2.8 million people graduated from high 



PRDCESSED kUDPiLD 2-DOl 



93 




school while a half 
milhon didn't finish. 
On the graduates, 1.2 million 
enrolled in four year schools and 
another 630,000 in two-year schools. 
Other studies show that of those that go 
to 4-year colleges, roughly half graduate; of 
those, half will go to graduate school, and half of those will 
get an advanced degree. Of the junior colleges students, 
only about five percent go to a four year university. The 
apparent neutrality of the testing process provides the same 
sort of "cooling out" for those that fail as a shill does in a 
classic sting. Rather than blaming the system, the shill per- 
suades the "mark" to blame himself, or fate. In the same way 
that a con game can't be won by most players, so to is grad- 
uate school a goal that won't be attained by most students. 
The concept of legitimacy holds sway in professional- 
dom; subordination to authority' is a central component. It's 
common for such workers to be aware of the effect of their 
work on the world, but it is verv uncommon for them to 
move beyond criticism and sarcasm. Schmidt quotes Max 
Horkeimer: "Well-informed cynicism is only another mode 
of conformity." It serves to palliate the worst threats to a pro- 
fessional's world by encapsulating such issues in a funny 
wTapper, discarding any alternatives as "unrealistic." In the 
end, even if they wanted to, there is no way for them to actu- 
ally do anything. 

"Professionals are angry about such abuses of power, 
but haNdng no vision of how power in the schools, in the 
workplace and the larger society could be distributed 
more democratically, they naturally look for ways to 
make the present hierarchical power structures work. 
Here the choices are limited — restaff the hierarchy with 
'better people' or give those at the top even more power 
so they can 'act decisively.' So even the most well-mean- 
ing individuals end up reinventing some such elitist or 
authoritarian solution. ... Those who have no vision of 
greater democracy are paralyzed even further by the 
individualism inherent in their outlook. They retreat in 
fear at the mere suggestion of joining with others ..." 
[B]ecause of the threat to their idealized images of them- 
selves as rugged individuals. 

The most valuable sections borrow from, among other 
sources, U.S. Army doctrine for Prisoners of War to help 
resist brainwashing. The techniques and methods — 33 in 
number — which may allow the "radical professional" (and 
those radicals who to have to deal with professionals) are a 
refreshing antidote to the usual weak palliatives offered in 
many books. They range from fairly innocuous to quite vis- 
ible and even dangerous, and include: 

* encourage coworkers to connect themsebes with radical 
organizations and to read and subscribe to radical publica- 
tions. You circulate anti-establishment periodicals, or 
selected articles from them . . . 

• assign your own curiosity. On the job, you develop and pur- 
sue your owTi goals while supposedly pursuing your 



94 




employer's goals. You steal as much time and as many 
resources as possible to do this. You encourage the hiring of ' 
more employees to give everyone more time to pursue i 
their own goals. 

• give priority, during working hours, 
to helping coworkers with their 
own self- assigned, politically 
progressive projects. 
• channel as much useful 
information as possible, 
especially inside informa- 
tion, to opposition groups, 
publications and individuals ... 
you may have to act anonymously 
... [which] does not mean acting 
alone — that you only do when there is no other way. . . . 

• sharpen and deepen your coworkers' dissatisfaction with 
the restrictions on their work . . . 

• help organize a union. After all, mjinagement is organized 
and sticks together to defend its interests. 

• hire coworkers on the basis of character . . . 

• work to abolish professionals. That is, you work to elimi- 
nate the professional /nonprofessional division of labor 

• undermine management's information advantage ... 

The author, a long-time friend of PW, was fired for writ- 
ing this book. The pretext was his first paragraph in the intro- 
duction: "This book is stolen. Written in part on stolen time, 
that is." He details the problems he had in physics graduate 
school at U.C. Irvine, in particular running afoul of a profes- 
sor (and science fiction writer), Gregory Benford, who appar- 
ently took offense at Schmidt's politics, and campaigned to get 
Schmidt fired. Let this be a warning and an inspiration. Go 
out and buy a couple copies for friends. 4 stars! * 



[BIBlBlBlBiaBJBJBIBIBMBJBIBJBlBIBIBMBJBIBIBfBfBMBJBMBlBlBlBJBIBIBIBUB 



"Flight and Other Stories" is a great collection 
of short stories, just released by the University of 
Nevada Press (2001, ISBN 0-87414-359-0). The 
author, Jose Skinner, focuses mostly on the varieties of 
experience of Latinos in the United States. Amidst 
echoes of foreign conflicts (Chile, Guatemala, El 
Salvador) a varied cast — a former junkie, an Hispanic- 
named lawyer who has virtually no latino heritage, 
school kids, marijuana smugglers, lovers and adulter- 
ers — inhabits diverse landscapes. The recent US census 
shows that an ever larger area of this country' is drawing 
its labor force from immigrants from Mexico and 
Central America, and with those workers come changes 
in food and music, as well as changes in identity. I'm 
taken with "Age of Copper," a story that is mostly a 
flashback to a young Chilenos' adolescence as a new- 
comer to the U.S. during the Allende period (1970- 
73). The protagonist's presentation of himself, and his 
owTi ambivalences, are delicately explored. Jose's book 
is a good read, illuminating the small victories and 
defeats of daily life. — P Morales 



BfBfBigMBJaBIBJBIBIBIBJBlBigMBMaBlBMgMBJagJBIBIBJaaagjBIBIBiailsl 



PROCESSED kiinRLD E-DDl 



Already A Winner! 



by "Thomas Daulton" 

Time to start murdering rats, Tony thought grimly. 
Late again, nervous, sweating, Tony bumbled past 
the receptionists, wearing his sheepish half- smile. 
He attempted the best tiptoe he could muster, while hur- 
rying to his cubicle, with arms straining around a half- 
case of StimuSoda and a pair of those absurdly noisy cel- 
lophane grocery bags hanging from each. 

Loud indistinct voices clashed angrily from behind 
the closed conference room door near the RatScan company 
lobby. But Tony kept walking tiptoe anyway, with those damn 
crinkling bags. Bad enough that he had to waste the precious 
lunch hour between his two jobs, shopping on a Saturday 
when it was the most crowded. But it had to be done today — 
or wait 'til Thursday, his day off from ConTek. Damned if he 
was gonna boil that last egg at home, unless he had ketchup 

to go with it ! The toast and maybe an instant soup. . . What 

else had he bought? Had he even checked the sweepstakes on 
the receipt? 

That was the one thought that could break through the 
residual panic left-over from his tardy entrance. If he'd won 
anything, and hurried right back, maybe the clerk would 
recognize him and let him claim his prize! Eyes crusty with 
fatigue, he groped for the small piece of paper buried 
among the cereal and processed cheese. 
THANK YOU FOR SHOPPING flUEEZEE-flART^" 
lS:S7:Mfl SATURDAY-. JULY B1-. 2017 
CLERK #: 113fl (F-J. DINWIDDLE) 
niLKLOFATl/EGAL $ lb.7S 

SNEEZCHEEZfloz $ 11-32 

COUPON $- D.SD 

OOZINGNOODLE lbaS.7S = $ TE-DD 

HONYBLSTCEREAL $ Efl.3T 

DEHYDRATOAST $ 3E.7M 

STIflUSODAl/ECASE $ 37. ES 

TRKYTRIPESALAMI $ a3.TM 

OATBRANYOGHRT MS fl.TS=$ 3S.fiD 

INSTAKETCHUPfloz $ IB-IS 

SUBTOTAL $3SD.t.M 

TAX aa.lSS $ SM.3S 

TOTAL ^MDM.TT 

-DEBIT CARD ^MOM-TT 

SORRY! YOU UERE NOT A WINNER THIS TIHE. 
PLEASE COriE AGAIN & PLAY (2UEEZEE- 
riARr"'S ALL-YOU-CAN-SCARF SWEEPSTAKES!! 

No big surprise there, he conceded. Wearily Tony flopped 
into his chair, leaned his head back, and wondered how he'd 
survive another 8 -hour shift. 



"Tony?" Pam Ganio, the receptionist, called his name and 
hesitantly stuck her head into his cubicle. Another minute 
and he would probably have dozed off like that, if she hadn't 
roused him. Wouldn't the Veep like to find that when he got 
out of his meeting? He fell forward out of his reverie. 

"Pam! I was halfway zonked. I guess I'm still warming- 
up today." Pam always seemed calm and well-rested; she'd 
won a lifetime train-pass in a sweepstakes months ago. She 
probably catnapped during her commute between jobs. 
Tony spent his time tearing his hair out stuck in traffic. 
"What did you need?" 

"Oh, nothing much. . . Just passing out paychecks. . ." she 
offered him a sealed envelope. 

'Nothing much ', is right, honey. . . he fought back the urge to 
snicker. Two miserable data-entry jobs and part-time mail-stuffing 
at home. 1 get by on a measly $95K a year because I live off instant 
soup and turkey tripe salami. Hell, if I wanted more pay, Vd REALLY 
have to put in serious hours; I like my sleep too muchjbr that. Tony 
ripped straight through the typed lettering, "TONY 
WALL— CONFIDENTIAL", with a crooked finger. 

The conference room door opened, releasing a wave of 
grumbling people in suits. Pam sprang back to her recep- 
tion desk with the deliberate grace of a young doe, in time 
to hand stacks of phone -message slips to the meeting par- 
ticipants. The last to exit, a portly man in a faded browTi 
suit, bypassed Pam and trudged towards Tony's cubicle. 

He paused to snap at another records manager, who 
was copying a stack of forms. "Get a bennie to do that! Your 
time is more valuable than theirs!" Hurriedly, she changed 
places with the nearest bennie. The bennies were workers 
whose only compensation was the company's medical or 
insurance package. Students or interns. Tony remembered 
what that was like, before he got his bio-statistics degree. It 
made for a long day, classes plus eight hours of work for no 
pay, but it was just a matter of preference. It depended 
which privilege — health care, housing, or transportation — 
you were most afraid of losing. 

Terrified, the bennie worked the copy machine like an 
oarsman on a Roman galley. Tony pretended not to watch, 
vainly trying to resist his vulgar instinct for entertainment. 
The bennie was just another loser, and it never helped any- 
thing to pay attention to losers. At least you could pull your- 
self up from the downtrodden masses if you worked hard. 

As the Veep approached, Tony hastily began the steps 
necessary to bring a big stack of numbers onto his computer 
screen, so it'd look like he'd been interrupted from some- 
thing important. He launched the company's proprietary 
analysis program, and stabbed a red button inset into his desk 



PRDCESSED kUDRLD E-DDl 



95 



repeatedly, while his boss closed the distance to his cubicle. 

In response to his frantic entreaty, a lab rat from a spe- 
cific sample population in the lower sub-basement was cor- 
ralled by mechanical arms. It was stuffed into a laser dif- 
fracting spectroscope and flash- vaporized. As the lasers 
shone through the airborne rat particles, the animal's 
genetic code flashed across Tony's screen: 
ACTA CCTA GAGT = D-StD^. GTTA CAAC 
TGAA = l-DE^i TACT GGTA AATG = E.Q2'/. 
GATG TCTG ACTG = E-lD^l TTAC TGTA 
AGAT = S-TSV. CGGC ATTC TCAG = 3.1D'/. 
CGAT GACT ACCG = B-ES^i CGGC ACGA 
TAGC = M-Dl'/. GACC TGAT CAAG = M-DE/C 

"When did you get into that BattleQuick stuff?" Mr. 
Storn asked. The Veep hovered behind Tony's desk a 
moment, as if to heighten the anticipation. "I thought I 
transferred you out of the Army-contract division." 

"Oh, uh, I'm not — not really," he stammered, "Chris just 
got a funny result yesterday and asked me to take a quick look 
at it." He pressed a few more keys and the rat's chromosomal 
epitaph scrolled off his screen. "What's up, Mr. Storn?" he 
looked up at his boss with an amiable expression. 

"It's crisis time for that Thoro-Sporidichlora-Cyanase- 
D Inhibitor project, again," the Veep growled, rubbing his 
forehead. "The Raleigh office has been talking to the client 
behind our backs and pushing the long-term angle. You 
know Scott's argument. 

"He keeps telling me that Gunkoba, Inc., vdll pay us for 
future genetic damage studies, on the whole family of 
Sporidichlora-Cyanase pharmaceuticals, if we give them a 
low price on the rats we're testing right now. My view is 
that it was a coup to steal this job from CheatSmart in the 
first place; who knows if we'll get more work like this in 
the future? We can't sell ourselves short, and the proposal is 
due in a month. 

"Somebody's got to go out there and protect our 
office's budget from Scott's red pen. Normally I'd do it but 
three other proposals are supposed to cross my desk by next 
Friday. I just can't spend any more time on it." 

Uh-oh, here it comes, Tony realized. 

"I'd like you to clear your calendar and plan on leaving 
next week. You'll stay there one week and make sure the 
proposal goes out with our numbers and not theirs" 

Tony fought back a shout. This was completely unac- 
ceptable. To go to North Carolina, he'd have to leave his 
other jobs for a week, and blow all the vacation he'd been 
saving up at those other firms. 

"Sure, boss, no problem. I'll have Pam book me a 
flight,"Tony smiled cheerfully. Unfortunately there was the 
Corprit-'Tude aspect to think about. Even though the 
entire American workforce was working two or more jobs 
(the national average was 2.42), each manager of each job 
had to believe theirs was your number-one breadwinning 



96 



position. Otherwise, if one manager suspected that you had 
another job to 'fall back on', you would find yourself 
'phased out' when the next internal audit came. 

The Veep rose, clapped him on the shoulder, muttered 
some thanks or compliment that Tony barely heard. 
Meanwhile, he tried to put aside his irritation by focusing on 
the opportunity. Maybe this would prove to the higher-ups 
that he was management material. Then the shoe would be 
on the other foot! Some poor loser running between three 
jobs would be doing the legwork for him! If he pinched pen- 
nies a little more, he could quit his other two jobs and work, 
maybe, 80 hours a week at one job instead of 90 hours at 
three jobs — not counting the savings in commute time. The 
extra ten hours of sleep were even more attractive than the 
title, the salary, or the responsibihty. 

Somehow that thought buoyed him up during the next 
eight hours of number-crunching and kept him from actu- 
ally falling asleep again. But, as usual, his second shift passed 
with all the vigor and clarity of an out-of-body experience. 
He couldn't get worked-up about this Sporidichlora- 
Cyanase project because the crisis had been there when he 
was first hired; it would be there after he left; and there was 
no way to resolve it by working through official channels. 
When it came down to the wire, somebody somewhere 
would finally stop covering their ass long enough to make a 
rational decision, and the crisis would instantly evaporate. 
Another would spring up immediately to take its place. 

He un-docked his compu-tablet at the end of his shift; as 
he rose from his chair, he swayed on his feet, lightheaded, like 
a balloon in a breeze, after working sixteen hours since he 
woke up at SAM this morning. His hands quivered. Now it 
was almost midnight, but the nervous energy he'd relied on 
to push him through his shift refused to leave him. The only 
thing that might help unwind him was a beer or two at the 
nearby "RatCellar," at the end of the RatScan complex. 

Down the hall, he stuffed a ten-spot into the vending 
machine and removed another cold bottle of StimuSoda. 
Absently, he swigged from the bottle so that he could focus 
his mind long enough to lose it in a glass of beer. Blow an 
hour at the RatCellar, do some envelopes at home, and still 
get a good four hours' sleep before his next shift began. 

He couldn't remember what the weather was like 
when he had entered the building; so he felt unprepared for 
what he'd find when he left. The elevator released him into 
the lobby and he spilled across the tiled floor with the rest 
of the silent data workers. Their footsteps made a binary 
conversation which was not replaced by human talk until 
they left the double glass doors. At that point, the co-work- 
ers and acquaintances let loose a little light chatter, as if 
they'd been afraid their speech would emerge as numbers 
when they were still inside the building. 

By rote, his pulse started to race as he finished the soda 
and checked under the cap. "SORRY ! NO PRIZE ! 
DRINK MORE!" Tony crushed the empty bottle in his 

PRdCESSEQ IlUDRLD E-DDl 



hands; it sprang back into its original shape with a plastic 
growl. He pitched it towards a trash can and it circled the 
rim a few times, reluctant to go away. 

Then he looked up, across the street, and gasped. During 
his shift, someone had painted the TransAmerica Pyramid to 
resemble a bottle of StimuSoda. The garish red-and-white 
stripes were drawing stares from all over the block, and the 
occasional squeak of brakes from distracted commuters. 
Apparently the ad served its purpose, forcing people to read 
about StimuSoda's "You'11-Never-Be-Thirsty-Again" sweep- 
stakes. ("ODDS OF WINNING APPROXIMATELY 
1 IN I'SSEOfl") The TransAmerica building joined a 
group of a dozen Downtown buildings which had been done- 
up to resemble various products: detergents, breakfast cere- 
al, canned soup; making the city look like the toy room or 
kitchen of an untidy giant. 

Tony sighed. Jobs were scarce and people everywhere 
worked unreasonable hours just to catch up. But as if to blot 
out any talk of an ongoing economic crisis, the ad sector 
always found money for ever-more-extravagant displays: 
orbital billboards, exotic computer viruses that penetrated 
every unwilling computer screen. Who exactly decided 'We 
don't have enough advertising around here yet, we need a logo on 
each little thumbtack head and hot dog skin.'?? Just gimme a Jew 
minutes alone with the guy in a sealed room. 

The red neon glare from the enormous StimuSoda 
bounced back at him from all the windows in his field of 




PPiDCESSED kUDRLD 2-001 



vision. But that didn't matter; he had reached the wide panes 
of glass marking the RatCellar. He slipped the bouncer a 
twenty for the cover charge. Reflexivcly he glanced at his 
receipt to see if he'd won free admission; crumpled it and 
tossed it into an ashtray. He stepped inside to a burst of heat 
and noise. 

Saturday night and the place was packed. A double 
handful of off-duty workers crowded the tiny dance floor, 
swaying and gyrating like the mechanism of some humanoid 
clock. He bru.shed his way to the bar and signaled for a glass 
of hquid anesthetic. Tony .scanned around to see if there was 
anyone he'd like to meet. 

"Every time we get close to finishing the report, the 
boss orders up another round of backchecks..." 

"...expenses are up from the previous fiscal year..." 

"...And the surveys have to be cross-correlated with 
Web hits and discretionary expenditures..." 

Just listening to words like these jostled a part of his 
brain which was already numb with overuse. It felt like pok- 
ing a bruised funnybone. A dark-haired woman, black slacks 
and a velvet coat, sauntered into the bar alone. Tony took 
the opportunity to launch himself away from the bar 
towards her. Without so much as a word of greeting or an 
eyeblink of acknowledgment, he slipped into her stride and 
bumped and grinded vdth her in time to the music. 

A few sweaty moments were all that Tony's tired body 
would allow him. As the tune ended, he nudged her back 
towards his space at the bar and took a cool gulp of his beer. 
One eye on the dark-haired beauty, he flipped over his beer 
receipt, unsurprisingly devoid of a winner's certificate. 

"Ellen," she murmured over the bar's din. 

"Tony," he responded with a winning smile. "So, do you 
work mornings?" 

"No. . . you?" 

"Yeah," replied Tony. Hell with the four hours' sleep. He 
struggled to keep up the veneer of a smile. "Then we better 
not waste any more time!" she smiled coyly. "So what if I 
follow you home? Limo ride to work tomorrow afternoon? 
Movie next weekend, maybe?" 

Damn, but women set their sights high these days. It wasn't as 
if he'd won any sweepstakes for limo service or movie tick- 
ets. Driving her to work in his beat-up '09 Toyota was unlike- 
ly to impress her friends. Magazine subscriptions, that was all 
he'd managed to win; obviously not the entertainment she 
was accustomed to. Laundry detergent for ten thousand 
washes. His lifetime supply of fish food wasn't much use 
when he couldn't afford a fishtank or any fish. Two movie 
tickets were basically out of the question on his budget. He 
mustered up a sly smile. "You may find I'm full of surprises." 

"Ah-huh. And so's everyone. Too bad; you really were a 
good dancer. Great rhythm." She hopped off the barstool 
and slinked across the dance floor again. Damn! He 
should 've played on that angle. Tony had always wanted to 
take up music. He had taken guitar lessons, back in high 

97 



school; but never had the time to keep it up. That would 
have been something to impress her with. He re-assessed 
the bar scene. It was a well-dressed and hungry crowd; soft 
voices around the dim, smoky room crossed like rapiers and 
cut the most suave of players down to dejected washouts 
left and right. 

His fatigue caught up with him and he didn't feel much 
like competing. His resources were pretty meager right 
now. Nope, can't even put-off the Jurniture bill this month. Those 
guys would repossess my bed and sofa just like THAT. Nothing he 
could really spare. Time to vacate the premises and get 
some sleep. 

* * * 
Reaching his apartment, he sorted carefully through the 

daily pile of junk mail, pen ready. No, I do NOT want to be billed 

later Jor a whipped-cream spritzer. No, i do NOT want to be billed 

later Jot a birthstone-sequin sweatshirt. He hated having to do 

this. But ever since the Supreme Court upheld the Negative- 
Check-Off case, it was vital to read through all your junk 

mail thoroughly. 

RETURN THIS FORM TO 
DECLINE THE PURCHASE 
BEING OFFERED ABOVE-. OR 
YOUR CREDIT CARD WILL BE 
BILLED ^STI.TT ON SEP- 
TEMBER lb-. ED17. 

Again the idle fantasy crossed his 

mind: Whoever invented this negative check-off 

scam. . . wish I had 'em alone in a room Jor Jive 

minutes. People's credit card numbers had 

been accessible to companies who could 

afford to purchase the lists for almost a 

decade. Speak of the devil; here was his 

credit card bill. As usual, he signed over his 

RatScan paycheck to ViMaCard and sealed 

the envelope. As usual, he purchased 

another four weeks of freedom, while 

adding another handfiil of pebbles to the 

landslide of debt waiting to devour him in 

the future. 

So much for his RatScan paycheck; the 

ConTek paycheck was likewise gone. Now 

to make sure he ate next week, by stuffing 

ads into envelopes. To make enough money 

for a grocery run next week, he'd need to 

stuff 700 envelopes, over the next three 

nights, unless he gave up some of his pre- 
cious day off from ConTek on Thursday. 

Tony took a deep breath, and tried to con- 
vince himself that he was surviving. But 

that was a tough task when the envelopes 

he stuffed netted him only $0.65 each. If 

he fell behind his quota, he'd be doomed to 



instant soup and no luxuries for at least a week. 

And what a time for Stom to order him to Raleigh! He was 
tempted to refuse when he went back to RatScan tomorrow. But 
the mere fact that people had other jobs simply wasn't an excuse 
anymore. Everyone had to be more productive these days. If only 
one of his jobs could get him off the hook. . 

His compu-tablet beeped with a new message, startling 
him as his eyelids drooped. Whew! Just as well. Clicking the 

READ button , he brought it to his screen : l'\^ TRYING 
TO GET A BAND TOGETHER. PETE SAYS 
YOU USED TO PLAY GUITAR. INTEREST- 
EDf —CRAIG TIBRON. 

At first his mind rejected the note completely. Doesn't 
Craig have anything better to do than bother me at 1 AM? He 
knows I'm busy. But he was too tired to hold onto the annoy- 
ance. Craig means well. I did useta play guitar. Cool idea, nice try. 
But playing in a band would mean brushing up, practicing, 
writing songs, booking gigs... it was too much work. Not 
when he had to crank out a couple hundred envelopes each 
night to stay on schedule, and then fight his way downtown 




98 



PRDCESSED LUDPiLD E-DOl 



and back twice each day just to fool his managers into 
thinking he actually wanted to work there instead of jug- 
gling spreadsheets, computer games, and phone calls when- 
ever they passed his cubicle. 

So instead he docked his compu-tablet to his home 
port, to gain the extra connection speed, and logged into 
the website of the lawyer who was paying him to stuff 
envelopes. He downloaded the advertisement letter that he 
was supposed to mail out to a select list of CEO's. 
UNLESS YOU DECLINE BY SEPTEMBER IT-. 
ED17-. YOU UILL BE RETAINING THE 
SERVICES OF THE BEST CORPORATE 
LAUYER AROUND! LOOK UHAT J. F. LEE- 
BAY-. ES(3UIRE-. HAS ACCOMPLISHED IN 
THE ARBITRATION COURTS OF THE UORLD 
HEALTH-INDUSTRY ORGANIZATION- 

Suddenly Tony's eyes popped halfway out of his skull. 
His envelope-stuffing employer, whom he'd never met and 
never dealt with except through a website, had taken on a 
legal case involving Sporidichlora-Cyanase type drugs! 
"TRIBUNAL UPHOLDS VIRTUAL DRUG TEST- 
ING: --THE PROFIT POTENTIAL OF THIS 
FAMILY OF DRUGS IS TOO GREAT TO BE 

RESTRICTED BY SAFETY LADS'-." the WH/IO 
tribunal had concluded, in favor of Leebay's client 
CheatSmart — the RatScan competitor who simulated 
rodential genetic studies on massive supercomputers. 

No way Storn would send him on a week-long assign- 
ment to Raleigh if Sporidichlora-Cyanase had already snuck 
around the testing laws. Gunkoba, Inc., had no conceivable 
need for RatScan DNA testing if the World Health-Industry 
courts had made this decision, which would mean anyone 
questioning the safety of these drugs would be subject to a 
fine. 

In which case nobody would care about the fee num- 
bers on a doomed proposal. He pulled that page out of his 
miniprinter and stood up. This was a big relief. It was 
tempting to drive back to RatScan immediately, to mini- 
mize the airline cancellation fee. 

As he put his hand on his doorknob, though, he started 
second-guessing himself. What would Storn think if Tony 
beamed into his office tonight, a big smile on his face, and 
explained why the trip had to be canceled? Mr. Storn would 
calmly explain that they had to put out the most accurate 
proposal possible whether or not it was going to be accept- 
ed. It wasn't Tony's decision to make, the cUent might well 
want the study anyway to quote in its ads. Corprit-'Tude 
again. Managers, they were like cats: they didn't come when 
you called them, they had to think it was their own idea. 

Would his boss read this in the paper or hear it on the 
news? Doubtful. Storn was probably making a half-bill a year; 
not enough money to spend time vdth his family, but enough 
to hire someone else to filter his news for him. This WH/IO 
decision would eventually get passed down to him by the 



legal department at RatScan, of course; but not before Tony 
had to leave on this trip. Tony sat dowTi again, dejected; he 
almost felt a physical sensation as the week's vacation he 
thought he'd rescued slipped through his fingers again. He 
turned back to the pile of junk-mail envelopes he had to stuff. 
The blood left his face again as he realized he had an 
edge. Storn had to read his junk mail; everybody did, nowa- 
days. And his part-time envelope-stuffing job gave him 
access. In fact, mailing this information to Storn would even 
earn him $0.65. 

He uplinked to Leebay's website, ignoring the obligato- 
ry random advertisement virus: 
STARVING^ AMERICORP-BANK WANTS TO 
HELP YOU! ! YOU'LL LOVE OUR GREAT 
RATES ON FOOD AND CLOTHING LOANS- 

He downloaded his weekly list of target addresses from 
his E-mail. Then he accessed the on-line telephone book 
and copied Storn's address to the top of his list. Enjoying his 
work for the first time in ages, he carefully folded a hard- 
copy of Leebay's newsletter and stuffed it into an envelope 
with Storn's address. Then Tony began printing another 700 
newsletters for the other suckers on his list. What he earned 
after this licking session would be well worth the rubbery 
taste of envelope adhesive in his mouth tomorrow. 

* * * 

"I'm afraid we're going to have to distance ourselves 
from that proposal, Tony. If Scott's office wants to put it out 
with the numbers they estimated, then let Scott take the 
heat for it." 

"But Mr. Storn," Tony protested. "Those guys at 
Gunkoba are counting on us. What if they need the esti- 
mates for budgeting other drug studies next year? We want 
to put out a quality proposal, don't we?" Inwardly, he 
prayed he wasn't overstating his case. 

"You're right, of course, Tony," the Veep commended 
him. "But it's just not going to happen. A week-long trip to 
Raleigh for a proposal that's going to fly like a lead balloon 
just is not vdthin our promo budget right now. Quality is one 
thing, but we're not in this for our health." ("At least, most of 
us aren't," he amended, shooting a quick glance at one of the 
bennies.) "Get back to work on the Pterygia/ Pinguecula 
project. That one's a cash cow. The bottom line is, we make 
money first, and worry about quality later." His boss grinned 
and clapped him on the shoulder; hoping to imply that an 
unusually candid and truthful statement was facetious, by 
making light of it. 

Geez, what are the odds? Tonv wondered as he walked 
back to his desk. That I would find that piece of information just 
in time to use it. Maybe there's something to this sweepstakes busi- 
ness after all. Instead of sitting down, he slipped out to the 
corridor, paid $10 for another StimuSoda, and checked 
under the cap. • 



PPiDCESSED kUDFLQ E-ODl 



99 



MARKS: A Memery 



Time is money. <A Capitalist Proverb 

Moriey is power <Ar)other Capitalist Proverb 

Time is money's power. 

All economy is economy of time. <Karl Marx 

All money is the money of power 
Money is the power of time-economy. 

Capital is money that grows. <An Economic Banality 

Capital is money's power over time. 

The economy's time grows power for money. 

Money is a community that destroys all other communities. 
(Karl Marx 

All community is community of time. 

Capital is a power that destroys all other powers. 

Community that grows destroys the power of time. 

The economy is a weapon. <Jean Barrot 

Money is a weapon that powers time. 
The economy of power grows weapons. 
Weapons are a community that destroys all 

other communities. 
Work for money is a community of destroyed time. 

Capital is a material God. <Bruce Gardner 

God is a weapon. 

Capital is money feeding on time. 

Time that grows is God. 

Money that grows is a weapon of God. 

To money, time is God's material power 

Capital is a community that feeds on work, a god feeding 

on all other gods. 
Capital is an exchange of community for time that feeds. 

Dead work dominates living work. <Karl Marx 

Dead God dominates living God. 
Communities of weapons feed on dead gods. 
Domination is the God of dead time. 
The dead feed on God; the living, on community. 



Capital in the money-form is a mask for waged work. 
<Karl Marx 

Economy is a mask for the Time-God. 
God's weapons are time and masks. 
As capital grows masks, work grows community. 
Materials bought for wages are the death-mask of work. 
Masks are a community that destroys all other 
communities but money. 

People make their own history, but not under conditions of 
their own choosing. <Karl Marx 

Choosing is the condition of people that make their own 
history. 

History makes conditions, but people choose whether or 
not to own them. 

Wage work gives people choices, but choices whose con- 
ditions are masked. 

People make their own gods, but not with masks of their 
own choosing. 

History, not God, is the condition of chosen community. 

Chosen history will dominate conditioned history. 

The tradition of the dead generations weighs like a 
nightmare on the brains of the living. <Karl Marx 

People make their own nightmares, but not 

under conditions of their own choosing. 
God grows like history in the brain of money. 
The choices of living weigh like a nightmare on the 

brain of tradition. 
The brains of the living generate tradition as 

they dominate their nightmares. 
Gods feed on nighmares in the brain of living work. 
Money's brain weighs like God on those trying to 

unmask history. 
Weapons generate dead choices, communities generate 

living ones. 
Capital makes its own people, but not under conditions of 

its own choosing. 
The future of dead work weighs like a nightmare on the 

brain of living work. 
The dead generations are a community whose nightmares 

grow poetry. 
The traditions of the dead revolutions weigh like 

capital on the poetry of the future. 



100 



PPiDCESSED kUDPiLQ B-QOl 



History is the nightmare from which I am trying to awake. 
<james Joyce 

God is the nightmare from which I am trying 

to awaken history. 
Capital's nightmare is the awakening of history from "I.' 
Dead nightmares grow living nightmares. 
The economy is a nighmare from which work is 

trying to awake. 
The brain is a nightmare in which a living power 

is awakening to choice. 
History's eye is awakening to try its weapons. 
The economy is a brain from which community 

is trying to grow. 

The social revolution must draw its poetry from the future. 
<Karl Marx 



Wage work is a weapon loaded with nightmare. 
God is the loaded poetry of economy. 
The economy is a living weapon loaded with past. 
The future loads its weapons with the poetry 

of generation. 
Money is a weapon loaded with dead choosing. 
The future is a weapon that capital loads with nightmare 

revolutions. 
Dead poetry is a weapon loaded with awakenings. 
All poetry is poetry of history. 
Community is a weapon powered with the brains 

of the living. 
Poetry must load its future from the social revolution. 
All dead history is history of weapons. 
The future of revolution is social poetry. 

— Adam Cornford 



Dead futures dominate living futures. 

The social revolution grows like a nightmare 

under the mask of economy. 
The revolutions of poetry draw futures from 

the social. 
All economy weighs like a nightmare on the 

brain of poetry. 
The economy is a poetry that destroys all 

other poetries. 
The poetry of the dead draws choices from 

the brains of the living. 
Capital grows futures, but not for the history 

of its own choosing. 
The social revolution must grow its future 

from poetry. 
Poetry is a community that feeds all other 

communities. 

Poetry is a weapon loaded with future. 
<Gabriel Celaya 




Debating the Military Budget 



PRDCESSED lUDRLD E-DDl 



101 



Radical Politics: 



Assuming We Refuse, 
Let^s Refuse to Assume 



by Chris Carlsson 

I knew something different was happening when I saw 
Suits outside a luxury hotel imploring demonstrators to 
let them pass. The demonstrators, arms locked, res- 
olutely refused. The protestors smiled, they were cordial 
but firm. One businessman became frantic and circled back 
from the line of protesters and suddenly walked quickly 
towards the line, assuming his personal authority would 
lead to the people parting and letting him pass. Violating all 
ovir assumptions about personal space and territorial 
imperatives, they didn't. Not only that, he quickly found 
himself dogged by a longhaired demonstrator who made it 
is his personal mission to stay in his face until he left. 

Seattle on November 30, 1999 was a surprising break- 
through in radical politics. Or was it? Clearly it was a vic- 
torious day for disparate and usually disorganized forces 
opposed to the juggernaut of capitalist globalization. A spir- 
it of unity and strength snowballed during the day as block- 
ade after blockade withstood the pleadings of businessmen 
and the physical violence of the Seattle police. In the after- 
math of this exhilarating day, pundits and analysts of all 
stripes have tried mightily to pinpoint the meaning and 
future of this newly visible movement. 

I see the anti-WTO Seattle demonstrations, and those 
that have followed, as a more visible and successful form of 
protest than anything in the preceding twenty years. But it 
hasn't left me feeling particularly victorious or even that 
optimistic. The daunting tasks associated with an anti-capital- 
ist revolution are hard to face. 

The current social movement against global capitaUsm 
(as seen in Seattle, Washington, Prague and Quebec) has no 
concrete vision of an alternative to capitalism. The new anti- 
capitalism has done well at mobilizing thousands to protest 
the big institutional forms of capitalism, but not much to 
define changes in daily life that may ensue from the transfor- 
mation implied by the anti-capitalist agenda. 

Since the various " 1 960s" movements were defeated or 
ran their course, people have learned an enormous amount 
about how to self-manage group processes, handle sexism 
and racism, and promote a culture of egalitarianism and par- 
ticipation. Anti-nuclear, peace, anti-poverty, and identity pol- 
itics movements have provided a rich training ground during 
the last quarter century. This has greatly strengthened our 
abilities to contest the global capitalist system within our 
daily hves. 

102 



This germinating culture of resistance must go beyond 
young radicals who like reclaiming streets, riding bicycles 
or protesting multinational corporations. People who are 
usually dismissed as "average Americans" will also have to 
see their advantage in embracing an agenda of radical 
change. Those of us already committed to radical politics 
must develop enormous reservoirs of patience. It will take 
a sustained effort over the long haul to bring about change 
so deep that it recasts our whole conception of work, econ- 
omy, and life itself. 

I want to articulate a life worth living, one that inspires 
passionate commitment and engagement, and presents 
practical choices in daily life. After more than twenty years 
in and around radical political projects and movements, I 
want to stop and re -think. I want to get out of the familiar 
"box" in which our political efforts seem to remain stuck. 

The walls of this box are made up in part of assump- 
tions among anti- authoritarian grassroots movements and 
groups that I've been part of for years: unstated assump- 
tions about power and leadership, organizational forms and 
institutionahzation. We believe in a radical vision that for 
the most part we cannot articulate, and we repeat self- 
defeating tactics out of habit and a misplaced urgency to "do 
something." Dissatisfied with my own pat answers, I want at 
least to deepen our inquiry, even if I still don't solve the 
problems satisfactorily. 

Utopia or what is it we really want? 

The problem is that without a vision of Utopia there 

is no way to define that port to which we might want to 

sail. — David Harvey, Spaces of Hope, p. 190 

Most political activity is reactive and contrary, 
demanding a halt to this or that excess, perhaps sprinkled 
with rhetoric calling for an end to capitalism, all too often 
depending on a neo-Christian moral guilt over so-called 
"greed." A more fundamental critique of the system is lack- 
ing, and an articulated alternative is completely absent. 

It is common for radicals in our era to describe easily 
what they are against, but when it comes to what we are for, 
a painful silence descends. (A couple of notable exceptions 
are Ken Knabb's "The Joy of Revolution" m his collected 
skirmishes Public Secrets, and Michael Albert and Robin 
Hahnel's Looking Forward.) If anyone is ready to talk about a 
different way of life at all, it is in vague terms that defy 
ready application. 

No one is ever going to get excited about radical social 
change if it doesn't promise to make their life much better 

PPiDCESSED kUDPiLD 2-001 



in clearly demonstrable ways. Generally, advocates of an 
anti -capitalist future have completely ignored this basic 
problem of . . . what shall we call it?. . . imaginative explo- 
ration . . . education . . . marketing? Most attempts to con- 
vince people to join oppositional political movements 
depend on moral outrage, shame, guilt, fear and appeals to 
fairness. This is understandable, but it also underlines why 
radical politics attracts such a relatively small part of the 
population. 

American society brags to itself through the mass 
media that it is the best of all possible worlds. People tend 
to go along with this, at least to the point of utter skepti- 
cism regarding suggestions that there could be a much bet- 
ter system. I think skepticism, reinforced daily by the 
mightiest propaganda machine in history, will only be 
assuaged by an exciting, appealing and credible alternative 
to the status quo. There are no compelling visions of this 
alternative in circulation. This is an era that rejects Utopian 
thinking, either because it is by definition impossible, or 
because it is conflated with the totalitarian nightmares of 
the 20th century. To dream of a more just, pleasurable and 
well-organized life is somehow to believe in a totalizing sys- 
tem in which all aspects of human life that don't fit the new- 
model are forcibly banished. 

This is a poverty of imagination. Radical change can 
erupt from any number of sources and lead in unexpected 
directions. We have stopped imagining abetter life. We limit 
our thoughts to tinkering with the more obvious inequities 
of the status quo. The old opposition between 'radical' and 
'reformer' finds its current incarnation among us in those 
who fight for a total transformation versus those who see 
the battle in terms of incremental change. To the radical, the 
minor changes achieved by reformers don't seem worth 
fighting for, or can even be seen as making things inadver- 
tently worse. To the reformer, the sweeping change advo- 
cated by radicals seems naive or dogmatically prescriptive. 
In the face of this ready criticism, radicals are hesitant to 
declare for any particular set of proposals. This hesitance, in 
turn, leaves us politically weakened, incapable of going 
beyond a generalized yearning for an undefined 'better,' 
afi-aid of the authority established by any choice of specific 
institutional and material relations. But if we won't assert 
the authority of any specific alternative vision, the funda- 
mental social question about "valid authority" is abdicated 
to moralistic nuts and neoliberal free marketeers. 

One of the intellectual problems that radicals have had in 
articulating what they want stems from an anti-authoritarian 
impulse to resist defining goals because to do so would be 
inherently authoritarian. If one person, or a small group, lays 
out a "blueprint" everyone else is supposed to embrace and 
adapt to, that perfectly contradicts the radical goal of a self- 
directed movement of generalized social liberation. 

I often answer critics in conversation that I cannot lay 
out the institutional form or mechanisms of a new way of 

PRDCESSED kUDRLD S-DDl 




Chris Carlsson by Mono Caron 

life. It remains for people in motion in the future to make 
radical change and create out of necessity and collective 
vision the institutional forms of the new life. That still 
sounds right, but I am quite dissatisfied with that answer, 
which is just as easily interpreted as a total cop-out. 

. . . the faith in the spontaneous creative powers of 
revolutionary action [has] disarmed the constructive 
political imagination of the left... 

— (Roberto Unger, False Necessity: Anti-necessitarian 
Social Theory in the Service of Radical Democracy, Cambridge 
1987, cited in Spaces of Hope, (UC Press, 2000), David 
Harvey, p. 188) 

It boils down to accepting a type of social power. Any 
vision embraced, once adopted in the real world, precludes 
other visions. Any choice we make about how we'd like life 
to be arranged closes off other options. Instead of refusing 
to articulate anything, out of fear of imposing our visions 
(on helpless victims?), and thereby create a new form of 
authority, let's accept the fact that stating our preferences 

103 



and visions IS a form of authority. Moreover, it is an accept- 
able form that enjoys only the power that it gains as other 
people embrace and share our vision. Of course articulat- 
ing such a vision is predicated on the notion that anyone 
could do the same, and that everyone should be encouraged 
to do so. 

Ideally, I imagine a social upheaval that puts numerous 
well-spoken agitators before the public, addressing a range 
of issues, articulating a variety of goals, maybe even consti- 
tuting together a Utopian vision of a different way of life. If 
such a time arrives we can be sure it will not be tidy, it will 
not automatically find a consensus, and it will require a 
great deal of strenuous discussion and argument. This is 
something I look forward to eagerly. 

That said, I am also presently stymied by a problem of 
tactical imagination. What are the approaches, activities, and 
organizations that might overcome the dead-end of reforms 
that actually strengthen the status quo — but do it by articu- 
lating ideas and reaching goals that are genuine steps toward a 
Hfe beyond capitalism? What are practical activities that make 
our Hves better now AND move us forvsard in terms of revo- 
lution, but avoid the boomerang of reformist co-optation? 

I was in Seattle for the anti-WTO protests in November 
1999. I also went to Washington DC to protest the IMF and 
World Bank in April 2000. My associates and I (the 
Committee for Full 

Enjoyment) played drums and 
did support work in the streets 
for folks who were putting 
their bodies on the line in lock- 
downs. We also preparcc 
printed materials in which we 
called for a more radical 
approach than the common 
demands of the protesters. 

In Seattle we distributed 
an anti-business card called 
"Life Not Trade" which went 
considerably beyond the liber- 
al demand for "fair trade, not 
free trade." In April we once 
again took off, this time to 
Washington DC to protest the 
IMF/World Bank meetings, 
and this time handing out a dif- 
ferent card called the Debt 
Wipe Card, a satirical anti- 
credit card calling for "Gifts 
Not Debts!" The two pieces 
varied from each other in cer- 
tain respects but each featured 
these words in conclusion: 

^We are here in the spirit of a 
real alternative, maybe we should 

104 




call it the Global Association of Gift Givers (GAGG). The passion for 
life is the same passion that convinces us that together we can make 
life what we want it to be. In the streets we have re-created the pub- 
lic commons, at least temporarily. We reject trade, free or fair for trade 
reinforces the pecuniary mentality that reduces human life to the 
arbitrary measurement of its products, to the Economy. As free people 
we can live better, work less (and enjoy the pleasure of the work we 
deem worthwhile) and provide an unprecedented level of material 
corrfort to everyone on the planet. . . When we abolish the Economy, 
we will see the world with new eyes, new energy, new possibilities. We 
make the world everyday when we return to work for them. Why not 
make the world we want to live in instead?" 

These words resonated for many participants in the 
protest movement. They are important to me, too, because 
they go beyond the usual smorgasbord of tepid reforms and 
empty demands. But I must confess, they ring rather hollow 
as soon as you try to apply them to the real world, to imag- 
ine what actions we might take immediately to begin reach- 
ing for the world these words describe. 

One of the self-imposed problems this kind of thinking 
has created is an inability to embrace any goals other than the 
most sweeping imaginable. But that position soon resembles a 
rehgious one that posits a complete simultaneous, sponta- 
neous transformation of everyone everywhere. In this 
extreme position I am seeking a change that is without his- 
toric precedent or any connec- 
tion to real people living in the 
real world. I scorn intermedi- 
ate goals as muddled reform- 
ism and hberal cooptation. 

Having participated for 
years in maintaining this 
impossible conundrum I am 
fed up with being stuck. This 
does not mean I want to turn 
to electoral politics or the 
tired ideas of the old or new 
left or liberals. But it does 
mean I don't feel at ease with 
the constant rejection of 
every initiative that anyone 
tries in this culture. 

Revolutions do happen, 
and social institutions can be 
radically altered — even abol- 
ished — in short periods of 
time. But to presuppose a total 
change as the definition of an 
acceptable political program, 
and to have no ideas of inter- 
mediate, achievable goals is 
finally a failure of practical 
imagination. 

PF^DCESSED kUDRLD E-ODl 



You're Pre-Approved! 



^^^ GAGG Global Association of Gift Givers 

1 DdbtW^^ Card 

'L\m i8H8 i'^bS 2000 



ShERE SETERtJITY 

DOT COr^lSTOOr 



V/SF 



Note: Card may not be honored by corporations and ottier institutions whose goal is to reduce life to a series of market transactions. 



Leadership 

1 have been part of several projects* over the past 
decades that eschewed formal leadership structure. Never- 
theless, many people who came into contact with these proj- 
ects concluded that I was the leader. If asked, I would urgent- 
ly insist that I was not the leader, that in fact there was no 
leader, that the collective as a whole was the source of power 
and decision-making. 

That was true, too, and I certainly never have had any- 
thing like unfettered, unchallenged control over any project. 
In fact, I lost collective votes on numerous occasions. But 
within the day-to-day life of a project I have taken initiatives, 
made decisions that shaped the direction of events, estab- 
Ushed and extended the personal relationships that led to the 
participation of new contributors, and so on. (Similarly, 
while I am the author of this piece, the ideas expressed are a 
product of intense discussions with friends over the past 
months and years, and thus the arguments are "mine" only in 
that derivative and collaborative sense.) 

My own ideological leanings are informed by emotion- 
al and personal preferences. I yearn for a world of peers. I 
narcissistically wish for a life filled up with different people 
who are a lot like me! I don't want them to think like me 
and march in lockstep with my opinions or theories, but I 
want them to have the same energy, willpower, ability to 

* Processed World magazine and Shaping San Francisco (the interactive multimedia 
excavation of the lost historv of San Francisco) are perhaps the most prominent 
examples. I also had an important role in launching Critical Mass in San Francisco, 
but in that case my role as a "leader" was quickly overcome by the rapid and wide- 
spread embrace of the event by thousands of others, both in San Francisco and else 
where. Less prominent, short-term groups such as the Union of Concerned 
Commies, the Anti-Economy league of San Francisco, the Committee for Full 
Enjoyment, and the Department of Public Art also inform these ruminations (as do 
my earlier participation in the anti-nuclear movement, farmv^orker and textile v\ork- 
er solidarity campaigns, and an incipient union drive at a bookstore). 

PPiDCESSED kUDFLD E-DDI 



project themselves, organize activities, frame questions, 
and dynamically challenge everyone around them to reach 
new levels of excitement and insight. With that in mind, 
I've always clung to the idea that "leadership" is bad, hierar- 
chy is a problem, and that everyone should be equal. I still 
feel this way. 

There is a profound contradiction at the heart of this. I 
believe in human freedom, that each person should have the 
maximum ability to become him/herself. In other words, I 
believe in maximum human differentiation — the more 
unique every person is, the richer all our lives become. If 
that is true, doesn't it follow that some people are more 
extroverted, verbally precocious, self-confident, organiza- 
tionally adept, inclined to take the initiative, etc., while 
others are more introverted, shy, less vocal, less public, not 
assertive, self-deprecating, and so on? This simple truth in 
any group or endeavor leads to something approaching a 
"natural" division of labor, which I consider an inevitable 
and useful feature of human society. 

No one is inherently incapable of change or taking on 
different traits or roles over the course of a life. But let's face 
it, at any given moment, in any given group or project, dif- 
ferent people are going to play different roles based on a wide 
variety of preferences, predispositions, talents, and desires. 
This is so obvious that it may seem pointless to bring it up. 
But the problem arises in political projects when this differ- 
entiation manifests itself and the group bogs down in bicker- 
ing and fighting, even sometimes into name-calling, as those 
behaving as "leaders" find themselves attacked and blamed for 
creating this differentiation out of some Macchiavelban 
power grab. 

This underscores a profound poverty of philosophy and 
political savvy in our culture. In our healthy rejection of 

105 



vanguardist politics and patriarchal social assumptions, we 
have lost a sense of "power" in the practical sense. The 
power to move people with words, to organize and finish 
projects, to facilitate wide participation, are just a few of 
the qualities of social power that we don't know how to 
evaluate and discuss without descending into cliches about 
domination and oppression rooted in assumptions derived 
from the dominant culture. 

The successful perpetuation of political resistance 
depends on individuals banding together and taking action. 
People use power with — rather than on — each other to act 
in the world. In the best cases, anti-authoritarian groups 
encourage all their participants to be powerful — both with- 
in the group and vis-a-vis the outside world. This kind of 
power is different from the kind that elevates someone to a 
leadership position from which they hierarchically rule. 

An egalitarian theory of practical social power needs to 
be specific about kinds of power, and its connection to other 
parts of life. For instance, if you need surgery, you want 
someone who is an expert siorgeon. But just because some- 
one is an expert surgeon, she shouldn't necessarily derive 
fixed social benefits or power from that talent. By extension, 
if someone performs the role of leader in a given movement 
or group or project, it is important to define the scope of that 
leadership, how it is held accountable to the larger commu- 
nity (or communities) , and to prevent the extension of that 




What If? A Journal of Radical Possibilities 

$8.00 ISBN 0-9709089-0-3 
1 25 Buena Vista Terrace, San 
Francisco, CA 94 1 1 7 
whatif@igc.org 

This is a wonderful new jour- 
nal. As the tide indicates, it 
focuses on the question of 
Utopia, of imagining a life worth 
living. Editor Christy Rodgers 
sets the stage, detailing the lam- 
entable history of the past two 
decades and characterizing the repression and cooptation 
of Utopian ideas as "kill the best and buy the rest." Still, she 
declares "there continue to be true — and growing — 
expressions of Utopian dreaming given form all around us, 
all the time." A welcome look back at English revolutionar- 
ies from the Diggers of the 1640s to William Morris in the 
1890s starts it off. Wise Fool Puppet Intervention and 
David Solnit of Art & Revolution Convergence are given a 
long look in a couple of thoughtful pieces appreciating their 
important contributions to the anti-capitalist events in 
Seattle and beyond. Home schooling gets a look, and 
amidst some future visions is a newly rewritten version of 
Adam Cornford's "Death of a Nation," originally published 
in Processed World #30 in 1 992. We send a hearty con- 
gratulations and welcome to What If? 

— Chris Carlsson 



106 



leadership into a fixed, privileged status in society. 

In the Washington DC protests against the IMF/ World 
Bank in April 2000 this tension played itself out. At the 
Spokescouncil meetings, where in the days directly preced- 
ing the direct action over 1 00 affinity groups sent represen- 
tatives to hammer out a consensus on tactics to "shut down" 
the IMF, various individuals who had been prominent meet- 
ing facilitators in Seattle in November 1999 were again 
running the meetings. I heard various people grumbling 
about what they perceived as a problem of "authoritarian 
manipulation" by these same individuals. This charge 
seemed absurd to me. In fact, running a complicated, multi- 
polar meeting to coordinate a type of urban wargame was a 
very daunting job, and I was impressed by how well they did 
it, and how open they actually were to the participation of 
everyone present. 

It is true that a lot of decisions had been made prior to 
these Spokescouncil meetings. Discussion had taken place 
by email and through a series of meetings around the coun- 
try, both within small affinity groups and between and 
among them. The gathering in DC was premised on accept- 
ing the general parameters of the action. Still, there was bit- 
ter disagreement on the spot. There were those who felt 
they had a right to participate whether or not they agreed 
to the definitions of nonviolence that had been promulgat- 
ed by the organizers. And there were those who felt that if 
you were going to be part of the effort, you had a moral 
obligation to refrain from any kind of violence against prop- 
ert or police. That dispute remained unresolved. Some peo- 
ple consider that a reason to withdraw from the movement, 
others are tolerant of the fact that there is always going to 
be disagreement on this precise issue. 

But it is noteworthy that the organizers and meeting 
facihtators did not elevate themselves to being an ongoing 
committee, leaders of a new national organization, or any- 
thing remotely resembling the old model. Clearly this would 
have happened twenty or thirty years earlier. I consider the 
ad-hoc nature of the power exercised by the leaders in DC 
and Seattle an excellent example of the kind of power we 
need to be comfortable with in order to succeed in our social 
movements. It is the kind of power that happily disappears 
when the specific reasons for its existence pass. 

Institutionalization 

or the problem of fighting for the long haul 

without becoming comfortably dependent on 

the way things are 

How do we launch political opposition in entirely ad- 
hoc and short-term ways again and again without having to 
reinvent the wheel each time? Can we have ongoing, long- 
term political resistance that doesn't turn into a kind of 
alternative business? How do we pay for staff, offices, 
phones and equipment, and keep a focused oppositional 
political movement alive if not through selling t-shirts and 

PFDCESSED LUDFiLD E-DDI 



coffee mugs, bake sales, seeking support from foundations 
and large donors? Can we grow our political opposition 
without institutionalizing our organizational forms? Can we 
make sure practical knowledge is shared and spread without 
institutionalizing that process? 

If we don't institutionalize ourselves, with organizations, 
resources (computers, printing presses, radio stations, video 
production facilities, meeting rooms, offices, homes, etc.) 
and the like, we have to re-acquire access every time we 
begin organizing on a new project. On the other hand, as we 
seek greater permanence and reliabiUty, we tend to duplicate 
resources and infrastructure, since our efforts tend to be 
highly localized and specific. If we share space and media 
equipment across issues, groups, time and space, we can 
make much greater use of the limited resources we have. 

Currently it is common to create small businesses and 
collectives to acquire productive resources, sell our skills 
and resources to "movement" groups (and the open mar- 
ket), and maintain the necessary infrastructure that way. 
But that leaves it all tangled up in the structures of small 
business and profitability. I've brought print jobs or video 
projects to collectively-owned businesses and found they 
need to charge nearly the same as any business to do it. 
Similarly, I have a small typesetting and graphics arts busi- 
ness. I do a lot of free work for interesting political proj- 
ects, but I reserve the right to decide, and no one else has a 
right to my labor or my facilities. So where 's the "move- 
ment" at that moment? The small business model, even col- 
lectively owned, is a poor solution to the problem of conti- 
nuity and sustained resistance. (Granted, it is often a much 
better solution to the problems of personal survival than 
working for "The Man".) 

Learning from the anarchists of the Spanish Revolution 
of the 1930s, the anti-nuclear and peace movements organ- 



ized into small affinity groups. This model re-emerged to 
fight the WTO in Seattle in 1999, the IMF and World Bank 
in DC and Prague in 2000, and the FTAA in Quebec in 
2001 . This anti-institutional, ad-hoc movement is based on 
small affinity groups that come together to organize specif- 
ic actions as part of the larger demonstration. The affinity 
groups thus avoid being subsumed into the logic of small 
business. They also avoid the bureaucratization and salaried 
hierarchies of ongoing nonprofit organizations. There is no 
need to maintain structures of property, ongoing expenses 
for offices and equipment, etc. Being rooted in local small 
groups is one of the anti- capitalist movement's greatest 
strengths, both depending on and reinforcing real commu- 
nities and face-to-face networks of neighbors and friends. 

One of the most notable qualities of the affinity group 
structure is the dependence on meetings and consensus. This is 
both a strength and a social liability. The tyranny of meetings, 
especially those run by consensus, can be extremely exhaust- 
ing and often demoralizing. When it works, it can be a source 
of genuine collective euphoria. But it tends to burn people out 
and often leaves a trail of bitter feelings in its wake. This derives 
in part from the questions of power addressed above, and our 
difficulties in facing and handling creatively the inevitable dif- 
ferentiation among people in any group. 

There is also an implicit assumption that the affinity 
group is somehow a prefigurative formation of the kind of 
hfe we want to live in the future. In that respect it becomes 
an agent of subcultural exclusion. Not everyone is inclined 
to organize their lives through face-to-face meetings and 
consensus. It attracts some personalities and political ide- 
ologies, and repels many others. The same could be said 
about most institutional forms. 

For those who are part of an affinity group, and have par- 
ticipated in the pohtical movements of the past quarter cen- 




PFDCESSED kilDRLD E-DDI 




tury, it is hard to accept that for lots of people it is precisely 
the anonymity and lack of responsibility that daily Ufe in the 
capitalist market provides that makes them feel "free ."You get 
your money from your job and you spend it however you see 
fit, privately and anonymously. There is no accountability for 
the meaning of the work you do (if someone pays you, that's 
all that matters) , nor for the invisible social costs of what you 
consimie. There is a great freedom to the individual in this 
arrangement, and one that advocates of social revolution and 
human hberation must take into account when they propose 
an alternative life based on a high level of accountability and 
responsibility. 

With this in mind, we might be better off describing 
our goals in other terms than 'freedom', even if we believe 
that it is crucial to free ourselves from the logic of buying 
and selling. Our society is increasingly characterized by 
emptiness, isolation, alienation, and fragmentation. It is a 
society that craves "community" and human conviviality so 
much that cults and religions easily find new recruits in 
spite of their patently absurd belief systems. 

Our self-perpetuating youth culture, driven and rein- 
forced by consumer society, encourages us individually and 
collectively to remain in a state of arrested development. 
The youthful rebeUions of the past decades, so easily co- 
opted into fashion and shopping, repudiated authority 
uncritically. The predictable result is the social equivalent of 
a child with negligent parents: a rootless society lacking in 
meaning or purpose in which individuals are treated like 
children. At work we are told what to do, and if we have the 



temerity to ask why, the inevitable answer is every parent's 
cop-out: because that's the way it is. 

As we seek a balance between our revolutionary impuls- 
es and our need to nurture and sustain a revolutionary move- 
ment — perhaps across generations — we cannot avoid grap- 
pling with the dialectic of personal freedom and social 
accountability. Accountability is always a form of authority, 
and a necessary part of a liberated future. Our yearning for 
community is at some point antithetical to the yearning for 
freedom. We seek recognition, appreciation and accountabil- 
ity in community — precisely the quahties absent in our 
anonymous 'freedom' as wage slaves and consumers. 

As we think about institutionalization, we face our own 
mortality, our own issues about "settling down," building a 
home, and making commitments. The frenzied life we've 
adapted to under late capitalism is defined by a high degree 
of personal mobility and choice. Can we embrace stability 
and rootedness in a way that enhances our quality of life? 
Can we build new institutions that embody a new way of 
life instead of being responsive to the dictatorship of eco- 
nomic efficiency? Can we build lasting institutions that 
transcend the need for charismatic individuals to hold them 
together? And what are these new institutions to do? 

The Tactical Cul'dc'Sac, or the problem of 
identifying and using real social power 

In Seattle an exciting coalition appeared. Direct action 
anarchists, mainstream labor unionists, environmentalists 
and third world solidarity activists united to protest the 



108 



PFDCESSEQ LUDRLD 5.0D1 



WTO. For a brief time it seemed that this new coalition had 
really changed the nature of social opposition. But by the 
time April 2000 rolled aroxmd and a similar effort was made 
to "shut down" the World Bank/IMF meetings in Washington 
DC, it was clear that the coaUtion already had returned to its 
original fragments, and was not imified in tactics or strategy, 
and certainly not unified in a shared vision. 

I have experience during the past twenty years in all of 
these so-called movements. I am critical of all of them but I 
prefer to encourage the parts of each that advance our 
efforts to a more thorough, far-reaching oppositional 
movement. What Seattle really showed all of us who were 
there was that we are MUCH stronger in our unity than any 
of us are alone. This is the oldest lesson of revolution. 

The distinctive elements of the "Seattle coalition" are 
not revolutionary when taken alone. Their goals are partial 
and reformist (except perhaps the anarchists, but they are 
the same people who really need to help answer the ques- 
tions raised in this piece). The social power these groups 
wield is largely a matter of public perception or the lack 
thereof; in other words, the solidarity activists, ecologists, 
and labor activists all depend on getting attention in the 
mass media as their primary lever of power. The surprising- 
ly successful seizure of downtown Seattle during the WTO 
re-introduced us all to the occupation of pubUc space as a 
form of social power. Even while it was underway, howev- 
er, bitter fights broke out among the occupiers about the 
behavioral norms of the occupation, obliquely endorsing 
the propaganda counterattack that sought to invalidate the 
entire protest on the grounds that some protesters were 
"naughty." This latter technique is used during every "suc- 
cessful" protest or direct action (which become recorded as 
instances in which things "got out of control") . The use of 
force, however nonviolently, is always deemed a greater 
affront and violation than the blatantly violent beha\'ior that 
passes as "normal business practices" in the world market. 

Following Seattle, activists tried to re-create the coaU- 
tion and dynamics in Washington DC and again at the politi- 
cal conventions in Philadelphia and Los Angeles in summer 
2000. The preparations of the authorities (who were deUght- 
ed to radically increase their security budgets in the wake of 
Seattle) prevented similar achievements. Also, most trade 
imionists, solidarity activists and mainstream environmental- 
ists were dissuaded from participating, either because they 
were afraid of the violence (that the state would provide, 
even if the protesters didn't), or because they didn't want to 
be associated wath what had become an "extremist" approach. 
European protesters took up the fight during the September 
2000 IMF/World Bank meeting in Prague, Czech Republic, 
where agjiin they succeeded in exercising the social power of 
occupying pubhc space. In April 2001, activists from the 
Americas descended on Quebec City to contest the well- 
guarded ehte's plans to endorse a Free Trade Area of the 
Americas. Canadian police enclosed a large area of the city 



behind barricades, and attacked protesters with impunity, 
but participants emerged energized and buoyed by the suc- 
cessfijl protest on the ground in Quebec and international 
media coverage. 

Anyone who has been in a major urban riot and has 
walked the deserted streets behind the lines of confronta- 
tion has had a taste of liberated space. A similar sensation 
comes in the wake of earthquakes, floods, blackouts, so- 
called "natural" disasters. But the everyday liberation of 
social space requires not just a spasm of refusal and disobe- 
dience, or an impredictable and occasional event, but a cre- 
ative reinhabitation of the spaces in which we live as an 
everyday truth. What is most notably suspended during 
these brief tastes of liberated space is business as usual. 
People stay home from work and school. Strangers are sud- 
denly your friends. It is common to extend a helping hand 
and to feel the connected euphoria of real human commu- 
nity. Seattle and the rest gave all their participants a major 
dose of this intensely seductive experience. 

Our mass market culture channels desires for collec- 
tive euphoria into mass spectator sports and religion. My 
goal as a revolutionary is to Unk the desire for shared expe- 
riences, community, and collective euphoria to more spaces 
in which we can live without "business as usual ."The two 
major components of "business as usual" are working and 
shopping. Interestingly, Bay Area elements of the Reclaim 
the Streets movement have recently embraced the "Buy 
Nothing" concept as an extension of the ongoing campaign 
to reclaim public space. "Proletarian shopping" (mass 
shoplifting) is another phenomenon that radically attacks 
the shopping side of the equation, and establishes a tempo- 
rary zone of collective, affirmative action. Both approaches 
have radical moments, but in the end suffer from being ini- 
tiatives shaped by a world already made at work. 

Most of our assumptions about the "real world" are pro- 
foundly shaped by our experiences at work, the place where 
we reproduce ourselves, where we "pull our own weight" and 
make a contribution (we hope) to society's general well- 
being. And it is at work that most people are more fragment- 
ed, disconnected and isolated than ever before. The redesign 
of work away from individual craftsmanship and ein integrated 
knowledge of any particular line of endeavor is far advanced. 
Henry Ford appUed Frederick Taylor's time-and-motion 
research to increasing the intensity of work through dividing 
it into ever smaller, more measurable and more easily con- 
trolled tasks. In the past quarter century, the twin processes of 
exporting the dirtiest jobs to faraway countries and automat- 
ing the ones that remain has turned a large portion of the 
workforce into temporary, contingent, semi-skilled workers 
who shift from job to job, industry to industry, as the needs of 
business dictate. Most workers today have very Umited knowl- 
edge of the purpose of their work, or how it fits in to the larg- 
er processes that lead to real goods and services. The tran- 
sience in workplaces has done a great deal to prevent attempts 



PPiDCESSED kUDRLD E-DOl 



109 



to build new lands of workplace-based communities and 
organizations (unions being the most formal example) . 

Organized and Disorganized Labor 

Members of the early Processed World collective believed 
that the existing trade unions were part of the problem, not 
the solution. We saw most workplace organizing as being 
inherently conservative insofar as people were motivated by 
a desire to protect their status as wage-workers, perhaps to 
gain a bit more wages and benefits. 

And yet we held fast to the idea that workplace organ- 
izing was the key to any future successful revolt. I still think 
this. But workplace organizing not directed at abolishing 
wage-labor and money seems counterproductive. And yet. 




how can one get organized on the job, win over wavering 
coworkers who aren't sure they're ready to join up, gain a 
majority of folks as active allies, when your goal is to abol- 
ish the whole set-up of daily life? It doesn't make much 
sense in the absence of a larger culture of revolt. It makes 
even less sense in the absence of a social vision of a life 
beyond the Economy, where human time is freely shared, 
production and distribution is freely organized by those 
who do the work, etc. 

This is a very serious problem. Radical revolt depends on 
overthrowing the reproduction of everyday life, in large part 
at the point of production (and distribution) . If people are 
organizing on the job, it is always to gain protection from 
arbitrary bosses, to improve wages and benefits, or to assert 
a right to control some aspect of 
the workplace. How does get- 
ting organized to defend oneself 
now (in a given historic moment 
of the capitalist division of labor) 
lead to an assertive collectivity 
that may eventually take over 
everything? In asking this ques- 
tion I paint myself into the cor- 
ner. There is no room for radical 
steps between the first goal and 
the total change. In the worst 
case, this leads to a numbing 
paralysis or a disdainful, conde- 
scending participation in strug- 
gles that I already think are going 
in the wrong direction! 

Moreover it doesn't take 
into account the overwhelming 
transience that plagues the 
structure of work. Few people 
remain at the same job or work- 
place more than a few years. 
New workers are expected to 
be good, fast learners and 
multi-talented, able to shift 
from task to task. Work is so 
thoroughly structured in most 
places that the workers are eas- 
ily replaced. Mounting any kind 
of ongoing, organized resist- 
ance at a given workplace 
depends on trust and familiarity 
between the workers. These are 
not qualities easily attained 
when you've only known each 
other for a few weeks or 
months, and then only through 
the strained "niceness" of cor- 
porate culture. 

PRDCESSEQ kUDRLD E-DOl 



Opening spaces in this closed world of work — physical 
or virtual — where people can connect is a crucial step. 
Organizing campaigns introduce the reality of workers tak- 
ing action together for their own needs — openly different 
than the company's needs. The role of trade unions in chan- 
neling and curbing the direction of such campaigns is 
important history to share so such movements can avoid the 
obvious pitfalls of the past. 

In the spirit of a difficult compromise with the "real 
world" workplace organizing around immediate demands is 
crucial, even if it falls under a typical (conservative and/or 
corrupt) trade union. History is littered with the failed 
efforts of radical reformers to "take over" unions from bad 
leaders and corrupt regimes. The point for me is not to worry 
about taking over the larger organizations but to make vital on 
an everyday basis the fight over the terms of daily life at work. 
If the union becomes an obstacle (as it tends to if your efforts 
exceed their narrow agenda) that just reinforces the need to 
make alliances across the boundaries of occupation, workplace, 
neighborhood, municipality, and nationality. 

Organizing on the job brings people together in a basic 
conspiracy. Workers together can alter the rhythms of work, 
open up free time for each other, and divert resources to 
other ends than that on which the company is focused. They 
can also force the company to take profits and plow them 
back into wages and benefits. In the best case, organizing on 
the job can create counter-institutions at work that eventual- 
ly become the framework for disempowering the managers 
and self-managing the job. Though this, in itself, leaves 
unchallenged what the company actually does, it sets the 
stage for a collective approach to deeper questions. 

Doing Nothing is Sometimes Something 
(or Slow DoAvn the Speed-Up) 

One of the most painful ironies of this era has to be the 
amazing overwork of radical activists. So many people drawn 
to political movements during this long difficult period have 
found themselves overwhelmed by the amount of work 
needed to mount a demonstration, carry on an educational 
campaign, puHish a 'zine or book, organize a union, fight a 
company. Time and again activists burn out over low or no 
wages, very long hours, bizarre interpersonal relationships 
with others who seem to have unresolved psychological 
problems, and a general anxiety that comes from being a tiny 
underdog in a world that goes to the victors. 

It's too common for those who are most capable and 
interested to get so pulled in that they sacrifice important 
aspects of their humanity. Many are attending meetings 
every day, going to every important demonstration and 
event, organizing all their friends all the time to the point 
where they only have friends who are part of their organiz- 
ing efforts. The ready use of guilt and shame to keep people 
doing work for free or very little is routine. The guilt or 
pressure that drives people to overwork and over-partici- 



pate is itself a crippling quality. 

By the mid-1970s, "the personal is political" became a 
slogan justifying mciny people's choice to drop out of formal 
political activity. The overwork and psychological distress 
common to political activism pushed many people to define 
their lifestyle choices as a sufficient contribution to poUtical 
change. Unfortunately, for too many, taking a political stand 
has come to mean shopping properly. 

The underbelly of this critique, however, is the impli- 
cation that to be "truly" political we must "do something" — 
something more than just shop well. It's true that our effort 
to pursue a revolutionary agenda requires creative action 
and steady public participation. But, the urge to "do some- 
thing" often leads to demonstrations and political forms (in 
print and on the streets) that are utterly unimaginative, 
dogmatic, repetitive, and profoundly self-defeating. As 
someone who has marched in countless demonstrations, 
published scores of flyers, posters and 'zines, and partici- 
pated in dozens of street theater interventions, I admit to 
feeling depressed, less powerful and less effective after a 
demonstration. 

The Seattle movement was launched by West Coast 
activists who led the way with colorful giant puppets and 
other new forms of creative protest. They have pioneered an 
exciting break with the visible style of leftist protest that 
dominated the past decades, and it has been exhilarating to be 
a part of it. Nevertheless, the urgency to attend raUies, cre- 
ate puppets, organize demonstrations and the like, itself 
reproduces the pattern of taking action without a clear idea 
of where we're going. And — unfortunately — the use of giant 
puppets (for example) doesn't really break with the familiar 
leftism of reactive protest and help us move to the offensive. 

"The personal is pohtical" was an important reintroduc- 
tion of subjective values and experience to the political land- 
scape. In that sense it parallels the age-old concern for ensur- 
ing consistency between means and ends. Participants in a 
renewed radical movement must find ways to live well now — 
not based on sacrifice and guilt, nor defined by a deferred 
gratification that will come "after the revolution." 

"Living well is the best revenge," goes the saying. 
Resisting overwork and self-sacrifice is an important radical 
goal in itself. If we aren't enjoying our lives and finding ful- 
fillment in human connections, our ability to sustain a long- 
term revolutionary effort is compromised. We need to take 
the time to develop our philosophical and political depth, 
study history, ecology, and technology, and practice imagin- 
ing the world we want to live in. If we cannot trust each 
other to take the lead, create lasting institutions, articulate 
more clearly where we're trying to go, and create living 
examples (insofar as it's possible) of the way we want to 
live, we will have a hard time convincing others to join us. 
We have to make it clear that we're fighting for a world 
dramatically better than the insane world of today. 



PPiDCESSED kUQRLD E.DDl 



III 




Processed World magazine has been a project of the Bay Area 
Center for Art & Technology since BACAT was founded in 1986. 
BACAT is joining together with 848 Community Space and togeth- 
er adopting the name counterPULSE. 

BACAT has been sponsor to numerous alternative, nonprofit 
media projects, from Processed World magazine and Paper Tiger 
Television, to Shaping San Francisco, the Haight Ashbury Literary 
]ourruil, Project Face to Face, the San Francisco Film Archive, 
CESTA: the Cultural Exchange Station in Tabor (Czech Republic), 
and Komotion International. Dance companies, performance 
artists, visual artists, videographers and musicians have all benefit- 
ed from the fiscal sponsorship of BACAT since its inception. 

848 Community Space, (www.848.com) a unique community of 
performance artists, poets, and musicians was founded in 1991 by 
Keith Hennessy and Michael "Med-O" with a vision of providing a 
grassroots, economically-accessible, community arts resource. 848 



has pioneered an authentic live/work arts space that has housed a 
number of artists, hosted several hundred live performances, class- 
es, and social events, staged dozens of gallery shows, and has filled 
an important and unique niche in San Francisco's cultural life. 

Grassroots participation, diversity, the active engagement of the 
imagination and free expression have all found a home in our proj- 
ects. We work from the bottom up, serving the needs of our neigh- 
borhood, city, and world while pushing the boundaries of artistic prac- 
tice and purpose. Our sttong belief in the vitality of a vastly more 
interesting democratic and artistic public life commits us to each 
other and the vision of counterPULSE: A San Francisco Center 
for Cultural Experimentation. 

Tax deductible contributions to sustain Processed World, 

counterPULSE, and numerous other projects can be sent to: 

c/o BACAT, EO. Box 410207, San Francisco, CA 94141. 



112 



PPiDCESSED LJDPiLD E-DOI 



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PF^DCESSED 
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You should read this information only if you are intent on 
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